The Montenegrin government just made another step on a long way of turning the country into the Balkans’ Ukraine.
Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said in a statement that the July 21 round of talks between Montenegro’s government and the Serbian Orthodox Church have ended without progress after the two parties failed to agree to a ‘compromise’. He claimed that the government made numerous concessions and even proposed new articles of the Freedom of Religion Law, in particular, regarding the use of “church and monastic buildings, property and other real estate that are state property or are recognized as state, religious or cultural value during court proceedings” by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
“The government’s only request was to register all churches and religious communities, including the Serbian Orthodox Church and its dioceses, in accordance with the law. <…> Unfortunately, the Church refused. <…> The Serbian Orthodox Church has retained an established practice of functioning outside the legal system, outside the rules and procedures,” Markovic said.
The Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro said that the past negotiations were used to “blackmail the Church and conduct an actual political marketing”. According to the council, all the new articles proposed by government experts to the controversial law “are meaningless if the government insists on maintaining the article, which conditionally declares church property as state property. ” In other words, the Montenegrin government did not drop an idea of seizing all the properties of the Serbian Orthodox Church, but tries to hide this intention behind speculations about some ‘registrations’ and articles allowing the church (for some time) to use its own properties seized by the government.
In these conditions, it’s surprising to expect that the Serbian Orthodox Church (the canonic one and the most popular one in Montenegro) would support the controversial law. Moreover, this law is an apparent attempt to limit the religious freedom in Montenegro for political purposes because, if it’s accepted in the current version, it will allow the government to meddle in the church matters by threatening it with the de-facto seizure of the properties (after the de-jure seizure under the accepted law). So, the concept separation of church and state will be violated. By enforcing this controversial law, the government seeks to turn the church into a tool of influencing the conservative majority of Montenegro, which does not like the recent social, political and economic trends. By undermining the church as an integral part of the traditional society, supporters of the neo-liberal agenda seek to strengthen their positions in the Balkans.
While the government is still able to accept the aforementioned law and even use force to supress the protests (especially speculating on the COVID-19 threat issues), this does not mean that it will achieve success in creating own puppet church. The Ukrainian colleagues of Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and his supporters already tried to do so and even got own ‘independent church’ with support from the United States Department of State and the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Nonetheless, this project appeared to be dead on arrival. Since the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in 2019, it has already splitted several times and is existing mostly on paper. Despite this, attempts to impose this new pseudo-church entity as the dominating religious force in Ukraine led to the increase of tensions within the religious community and contributed to the antagonism of the population to the government. It’s hard to expect that this is the result that any constructive government wants to achieve. However, if the real goal is the destabilization of the society and the administrative attempts to supress the people’s point of view, this still can be useful scenario for some puppet, Western-controlled government.
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