A group of citizens organized a protest walk today in the Montenegrin city of Cetinje, from the Lovćenska Vila monument to the roundabout on the exit of the city, over the announced tomorrow Serbian Orthodox Church’s prayer and litany against the Freedom of Religion Act. The Montenegrin-Littoral SOC Metropolitan Council announced earlier today that the announced event had been cancelled for security reasons.
Speaking on behalf of the group of citizens, Predrag Vušurović said that Cetinje was “the pure cheek and heart of Montenegro” and that it was their peaceful protest against the announced SOC rally.
He announced that there would be similar gatherings in the future if needed, and said that he would respond to all similar initiatives in this way, peacefully and with dignity.
Earlier, Montenegro Prime Minister, Duško Marković, said for Montenegro TV that the Law on Freedom of Religion was not directed against any religious community, that resistance to this legal act had grown into a confrontation with the state of Montenegro and that it was now impossible to withdraw the Law.
He said that the dialogue was unquestionable, strongly insisting that it would happen and that he would formally contact Metropolitan Amfilohije by the end of the week to continue the talks. The Prime Minister said that the Law would be discussed with actors in Montenegro and that no President, not even the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, could decide on it.
“For us, the legitimate address for dialogue is the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and Metropolitan Amfilohije,” Marković said, pointing out that it was not true that there was no dialogue on this legal act, and that he had personally talked to Metropolitan Amfilohije several times, and that other members of the Government also spoke with him.
Prime Minister Marković also addressed calls on the Government to withdraw the Law: “The Government cannot withdraw the law. The Government proposes it, the Parliament adopts it and the President signs the bill, making it law. This law has gone through all these procedures and is in force. No one can withdraw it”.
Marković stressed that the state guarantees that there is no reason for fears and misconceptions. He explained the Metropolitanate’s resistance to the Law as their desire to be outside the legal system of Montenegro.
Furthermore, Marković said that the developments following the adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion were disappointing, that it was not about resistance to this act, but that it had grown into a confrontation with Montenegro.
“This attack and unprecedented propaganda were carried out by actors within the country, but they were most drastically and brutally orchestrated by actors from neighbouring Serbia”, Marković said.
The campaign in Serbia was run by state officials as well as by representatives of the opposition, NGOs and the media, but there was also a hidden campaign carried out by the clergy of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the Law is extremely liberal, that there is no seizure of Church property. He also pointed to the existence of numerous cases of illegal transfer of state property to the Church or priests, and said that all such cases would be examined and sanctioned.
Marković stressed that under the Law on Freedom of Religion all religious communities are equal, and he also spoke about the laws governing the issue of religion in Serbia and Croatia.
“Serbian law puts Serbian Orthodox Church at the forefront, and Croatian law equally regulates the functioning of all religious communities in Croatia, including the Serbian Orthodox Church, which signed a Basic Agreement with Croatia, which states that the property and immovable property of the Serbian Orthodox Church which it uses in Croatia is the material and cultural asset of Croatia, not of some other country”, Marković explained.
Asking why Montenegro would be an exception, Marković said that a monopoly was wanted here and that the intention was to question the essence of the Montenegrin state and its freedom and independence./ibna