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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

MACEDONIA: Serbian Bishop sentenced to Solitary Confinement

Serbian Orthodox Bishop Jovan was arrested in Macedonia, on Sunday, for attempting to perform a baptism in a Macedonian Orthodox Church and was sentenced to five days' solitary confinement in prison. The Macedonian government has claimed to Forum 18 News Service that it "has no links with this arrest, it is an issue of public peace and order". Serbian prime minister Zoran Zivkovic has stated that the Serbian and Montenegrin ministers of Foreign and of Religious affairs will protest to the Macedonian authorities about both this sentence and the ban on Serbian Orthodox priests entering Macedonia in their vestments.


Before the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief on 17-18 July 2003, Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org/ surveys some of the more serious abuses of religious freedom that persist in some countries of the 55-member OSCE. Despite their binding OSCE commitments to religious freedom, in some OSCE member states believers are still fined, imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their faith, religious services are broken up, places of worship confiscated and even destroyed, religious literature censored and religious communities denied registration.

KOSOVO: Further attacks on Orthodox sites

An Orthodox church in Pristina attacked in May was again stoned late on 26 June, while tombstones in an Orthodox graveyard in Kosovska Vitina have been destroyed. "This latest wave of attacks is further proof that Albanian extremists are using all means to intimidate and throw out of Kosovo the remaining Serbian population, while the international community is doing little to prevent it," Fr Sava (Janjic), deputy abbot of the Decani Monastery, told Forum 18 News Service. After the May attack on St Nicholas' Church, KFOR spokesman Garry Bannister-Green told Forum 18 that "KFOR deplores all such acts of mindless vandalism". He denied that removing the KFOR guard had threatened the church's security.

SERBIA: Latest attack leaves Adventist pastor hospitalised

Adventist pastor Josip Tikvicki remains hospitalised with concussion after being severely beaten in the night of 15-16 April when he challenged people who were attacking his church in the city of Zrenjanin. "This is the fifth such incident with Adventist churches in the last ten days. We believe there is an orchestrated campaign against us," Radisa Antic, president of the Adventists' South-East European Union, told Forum 18 in Belgrade on 16 April. Such attacks – which took place despite the current state of emergency – have left Serbia's Adventist community "threatened and insecure". Human rights activist Sonja Biserko told Forum 18 that the attacks are the product of 12 years of nationalism under Milosevic and the last two years of uncontrolled media promotion of the Serbian Orthodox Church. This has, she claims, created a young generation which "hates" religious minorities.

SERBIA/MONTENEGRO: Breakthrough for conscientious objectors?

In what might be a breakthrough in achieving a civilian alternative to military service, currently unavailable in Serbia and Montenegro, a military judge in Nis in south eastern Serbia has decided not to sentence Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Milan Gligoric. He instead allowed him to apply for civilian service under the terms of newly-adopted Constitutional Agreement of Serbia and Montenegro, which recognises the right to conscientious objection to military service, though he remains in custody in a military barracks. Nazarene and Adventist leaders told Forum 18 News Service that their young men are generally prepared to do unarmed service within the military. But a Nazarene elder told Forum 18 that should a civilian alternative be introduced, he had "no doubt" that all the Nazarenes would opt for it instead.

SERBIA/MONTENEGRO: Will controversial religion law come back?

Adventist and Baptist leaders and human rights activists have said they hope any new religion law in Serbia and Montenegro will not be modelled on the controversial old draft law, whose adoption has now come to a halt with the end of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its replacement by the new country of Serbia and Montenegro. Goran Miletic of the Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade insists that lawmakers must now start again from scratch. "There has to be a completely new draft of the law on religious freedom," he told Forum 18 News Service. Miodrag Zivanovic of the Adventists complained that although the old law was not adopted, some discriminatory provisions are already being applied.