Arsonists target Orthodox church in Sarajevo

Arsonists target Orthodox church in Sarajevo

Sarajevo, August 22, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Mladen Dragojlovic

Sarajevo police is investigating the arson to the Orthodox church in this city that took place on Saturday. The Church sustained considerable material damage, confirmed Rector Cedomir Djelmo. He said that at 8.00 a.m. when clerics came to the church to prepare for service the building was filled with smoke. They found that a fire had been set up in the church storage room, scorching a lawn mower and some tools.

“The smoke was coming out of the church window that had been closed up with planks and bars due to the previous robbery attempts to prevent anyone from coming in. We immediately called the police and fire fighters who quickly put out the fire”, Djelmo said.

He added that on Saturday, while they were dismantling the tents after a patron saint’s day, Transfiguration of Our Lord, celebration, they found that one of the tents was torn in a few places. This tent was about 10m away from a video camera, and it was impossible to find who did it. This case was also reported to the police, but the church personnel have not received any report about it yet.

Djelmo explained that the church had often been targeted by vandals, that more than 40 attacks had been registered and very few resolved. In the last few months they received police reports on the attacks that happened 10 years ago or earlier, on which the statute of limitations was applied and that investigations were suspended. Despite this, he hopes the Sunday incident will be resolved because, as he said, it is in their interest to discover the truth.

“t would be very bad to accuse anyone but we are a little insulted when people immediately say that it set itself on fire, regardless of who it was”, Djelmo said.

The incident was condemned by many international and local politicians and official Belgrade demand the immediate investigation in order to find the persons responsible for this. Serb politicians agree that this is the clear message to the rest of Serbs who are still in their homes in BiH capital. According to census results, just a small number of Serbs still live in Sarajevo and they consider this as a sign that they should go.

Sarajevo Mayor, Elmedin Konakovic, condemned the incident but also condemned the fact that many Serb politicians use the event to gain some political advantage and to represent this event as the battle of Bosniaks against Serbs in BiH. He referred to the statements of some Serb politicians who linked this event with referendum in RS about RS Day as holiday in this entity.

The incident was also condemned by international community High representative in BiH, Valentin Inzko.

“I expect the competent authorities to take prompt action and investigate all the circumstances behind this deeply regrettable event. Justice must be swift. At the same time I call on politicians not to misuse this event for political purposes. The institutions must be allowed to do their job in investigating the case and determining the truth, and I expect them to do so”, Inzko said after his visit to the church and the conversation he had with priests on Monday.

Inzko and Sarajevo Canton Government promised to help with the reconstruction of the church.