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Family and colleagues attend the funeral of killed soldier Zoran Bubevski in his home town of Berovo, 200kms east from the Macedonian capital Skopje on June 1, 2001. The soldier was killed and two others were wounded on Thursday when their car drove over an anti-tank mine in the village of Blace. Bubevski is the third soldier killed from this town since clashes with ethnic Albanians started in Macedonia. More than 3000 people attended the funeral. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
INTERVIEW WITH THE HEAD OF THE MOC, HIS HOLINESS STEFAN FOR THE MACEDONIAN RADIO.
Regarding the current situation in Macedonia, the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC), His Holiness Stefan said for the Macedonian Radio that "basis of all crisis is the moral crisis."
The moral crisis, according to H.H. Stefan, "means forgetting of the elementary, national, patriotic, state and religious values by every individual. Moral crisis means hatred, destruction of the other, forgetting of the Holy, of the religion, denial of the unity due to religious differences and religious orientation."
What is happening to us is nothing new in the history, Stefan said. "Could anyone imagine that ancient Egypt, with all its glory would disappear, that Rome or Byzantine would disappear. This proves that the moral crisis is stronger than anything else. Unfortunately, something like that might happen to us, but I still believe that we can still go back to the real values, which we have currently forgotten. When I say "we" I mean all of us, both the Macedonians, Albanians, and all others who live in this country. ," he stated.
"It is a question how true were the statements that Macedonia is oasis of peace. Oasis of peace can be only that country where all citizens think alike."
"When we named our country 'oasis of peace' our country was left without weapons. The former Yugoslav Army took everything it could take from Macedonia, and at the same time, we have to admit, someone was permanently bringing weapons in Macedonia, and we lied to ourselves that we are building 'oasis of peace'," he said.
Speaking about the relations between the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Community in Macedonia, H.H. Stefan said that he could not believe that what is happening on military field should influence on the MOC or on the Islamic Community, because "it is constantly underlined that the clashes are not due to the religion, but for Constitutional changes."
"Regardless whether we admit this or not, we are overwhelmed by the feeling that in this hard days for Macedonia the Islamic Community did not condemn the terrorists who are shooting on our security forces. So far, I did not hear from them any expression of sympathy to the families of the killed Macedonian policemen or soldiers. I did not hear from them to condemn those who entered in the monastery "St. Anastasij" in Tetovo, who occupied the "St. Virgin Mary" church in Matejce. Also, I did not hear from them to condemn those who use the mosques as sniper positions. Therefore, I think that we should all do our best to eliminate that feeling of mistrust between MOC and the Islamic Community," H.H. Stefan said.
He underlined that the Islamic Community stood against the evacuation of the civilians from Kumanovo-Lipkovo region. "All experts suggested evacuation of the population. I believe that all what is happening to us will make us think that the voice of the Church leaders and leaders of the Islamic Community is needed so we can surpass this situation," Stefan stated.
On two occasions since the beginning of the clashes, the Macedonian Orthodox Church tried to schedule a meeting with the representatives of the religious communities in Macedonia, Stefan said. All representatives, except those of the Islamic Community, came to the meetings, where we were supposed to sign a joint statement for the present situation, the MOC Head said.
Regarding the Article 19 from the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, His Holiness Stefan says that it guarantees to the MOC and other religious communities in the state independence and equal rights in front of the law. "If the problem is in the mentioning of the MOC name, that is due to the historical role of the Macedonian people in the Macedonian history. There is nothing wrong with the Preamble of the Constitution," he said.
The statement given by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski that the name of MOC should be erased from the Constitution H.H. Stefan understands as "statement given with dosage of irony."
"The place given to the MOC is founded on its historical work for the Macedonian people. I think that talks for the role of the MOC and its place in the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia should not be allowed," H.H. Stefan said.
Regarding the new draft-text of the Law for religious communities, Stefan said that besides the MOC the other religious communities in Macedonia had certain remarks.
Regarding the MOC activities for its recognition by the other orthodox churches, H.H. Stefan said that soon a MOC delegation would meet with delegations from the Antiohian and Georgian Orthodox churches.
Regarding the relations with Serb Orthodox Church, he said "we concluded that these negotiations do not offer anything new and therefore, we decided to change our demands for resolving of the Macedonian church issue." "Due to that reason, we decided to address to the Istanbul Patriarchy, i.e. to the Supreme Patriarch Bartholomew. The current situation in Macedonia has postponed our activities, but still, we expect our initiative for trilateral meeting to be realized soon," he stated.
Asked what would MOC do in regard to the destruction of churches in the region of crisis, H.H. Stefan said that in this context the Islamic Community and international organizations could help.
Regarding the idea by the Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts for voluntarily exchange of territories and people between Macedonia and Albania, the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church said that this is an exceptional time when each and every one of us thinks about the beginning and the causes of the war, but should also think about its end and the life afterwards. I would not comment those statements, as I have heard MANU's members do not support that idea, but it was a position that was presented to the public. I do not understand it as an offered program, but I think they follow the example of the Serbian and Albanian academies. I would ask the following question: Is that the most unconstitutional statement we have heard in the past months? Is it a sin to ask when will the population disarm and is it a sin to expel someone that illegally entered our country? Is it a sin someone that made mistake to be responsible before the Court of Law?
In this period we have to tolerate our differences and our positions, because we will not resolve the crisis unless we hear everyone's position and opinion. "It is time to find the best solution to come out of this situation, as the weapon and the threats are not in favour of anyone's Constitution, not the human, nor Christian nor Muslim's," H.H. Stefan stressed.
Among the current activities of MOC, H.H. Stefan mentioned the resolving of the situation in the Macedonian Orthodox Eparchy in Australia. "Ultimately, we all have to understand that the situation in the Australian Eparchy does not contribute to the Macedonians there. The respect of the church, nation and of the state is defended in Macedonia, as well as in the foreign eparchies. He also pointed out to the activities for restoring the temple of "St. Kliment" on Plaoshnik in Ohrid. "I visited the temple few days ago and it is a real shrine.
Head of MOC announced that the St. Sophia Church would be blessed in October after the restoring of the church is over. In that time MOC's Assembly will be held, where representatives from all MOC's eparchies will participate. I think that several issues including the future activities of MOC will be on the agenda.
Regarding the visit to Australia H.H. Stefan blessed the believers and expressed his wishes and readiness to visit them, hoping that the visit will be realized soon.
At the end of his interview for the Macedonian Radio, H.H. Stefan spoke of his visit to the US - Canadian eparchy and the church municipalities in Toronto and in the state of New York. He attended the electing Assembly in the US Canadian Macedonian eparchy as well as the celebrations on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of "St. Dimitrij" in Markham.
Bitter Macedonians say forced by world into appeasing separatists.
SKOPJE, June 1 (AFP) -
Macedonia's bitter Slav majority believes it is being strong-armed by international pressure, notably from NATO and the European Union, into making sweeping and unwelcome changes to its young constitution.
The fragile former Yugoslav republic is facing the worst crisis of its decade-long period of independence, as an armed ethnic Albanian uprising threatens to topple the country into all-out civil war.
Fearing another round of Balkan bloodletting, the international community's big guns have shuttled in and out of Skopje to press the case for inter-ethnic dialogue on reforms to temper ethnic Albanian claims of discrimination.
The jewel in the crown of this process has been the creation of a government of national unity including all the main Macedonian Slav and ethnic Albanian parties, hailed by foreign diplomats as the best guarantee of peace.
But as the guerrillas continue to rampage through northern hills and political divisions push the coalition to breaking point, the unity government in Skopje seems more and more like a facade to reassure international opinion.
"This coalition was imposed by the EU, by (EU foreign policy chief) Javier Solana, by (NATO Secretary General) George Robertson and (Swedish Foreign Minister) Anna Lindh. It's a perverse thing," political analyst and law professor Georgi Marjanovic told AFP.
"There is no cohesion, these parties have nothing in common," he said.
Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski formed the coalition government under international pressure to defuse ethnic tension by taking on board ethnic Albanian demands for equal status under the constitution.
Now two ethnic Albanian political parties who have signed a unilateral accord with the rebels and which have been accused by Georgievski of backing "terrorists" sit alongside his Macedonian nationalist VMRO-DPMNE in cabinet.
Also on board are the former Communist SDSM of ex-PM Branko Crvenkovski, which will be Georgievski's fiercest rival for the Slav vote in next year's legislative elections and has already fallen out with him over how to deal with the crisis.
This week, Georgievski conceded for the first time that the agenda set for him in Brussels by the European Union and NATO would inevitably lead to the demands of the ethnic Albanian parties, and of the guerrillas, being met.
"The agenda is under the auspices of the international community and it is not a secret," he said, "This is the agenda that will make the country the place that Albanians wanted to see."
A European diplomat told AFP that while Georgievski was clearly angry, the declaration showed that he had accepted the reality that Albanian demands for constitutional reform would eventually have to be met.
Georgievski says he is resigned to seeing the preamble to the constitution -- which describes Macedonia as "the nation-state and the Macedonian people" -- ripped up and replaced with a document that makes the Albanian minority a second constitutive nation and makes Albanian an official state language.
But Marjanovic ridiculed the idea that the ethnic Albanians would be satisfied when they gain constitutional equality, warning it would only be the first step towards the bloody dismemberment of his country.
"Before the war in Bosnia there were three constitutional peoples ... I don't think Europe really understands the problem," he said.
He described the decision of the two ethnic Albanian parties in the coalition to sign an accord with the rebels' political chief -- which promised the guerrillas a place at the negotiating table -- as "high treason".
The coalition was to strengthen Skopje's hand as the government tried to isolate extremists, but instead it has turned into a straitjacket for Georgievski, forcing him to work alongside his most bitter foes to forward someone else's agenda.
As the government's military campaign makes little headway, the only plan in town is the one imposed by the international community, and few in Skopje think it will postpone the political crisis for long.
"In two year's time, you'll see. The more we give the Albanians, the more they want," warns Tomislav Mitrovski, a 28-year-old baker.