Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Is someone messing with the law on religious freedom?

Sorry, this is a long post but it’s an important one.  If you are interested in religious freedom and Kosova, and after all, who isn’t, read through this.  It might sound like a bunch of legal jargon, but it translates quite quickly into reality on the ground for us.


If you could contact your congressman, that would be great.



                                                                                                  26th November 2004


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ




As many of you are now aware, there have been some developments regarding the Law on Religious Freedom over the last weeks which greatly concern the Protestant Evangelical Community in Kosova.


Since mid-2003 a Working Group consisting of representatives from each religious group in Kosova plus OSCE (Operation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the US Office and the United Nations Office have been working together to form this Law.  The representative for the Protestant Evangelical Community is Artur Krasniqi from the Fellowship of the Lord’s People in Prishtina.


Last week the Working Group was informed that the Law had been submitted to the Kosova Government without their completion or approval.  In addition to this, specific articles and statements that had been agreed upon had been removed without their consultation or agreement.  One of our concerns is that it is at a time of the Government hand over that the Law has been submitted to the Government and is being ‘pushed’ through for approval.


The intention of the Protestant Evangelical Community is to register as a ‘Religious Community’.  If this action is not recognized, we would automatically be a ‘Union of Natural Persons’.  This would not benefit us in any way and could even have significantly detrimental consequences.


The representatives of the Religious Communities have raised concerns over the following -


Section 30.3  - The process for the registration of Religious Communities


The Working Group agreed that in keeping with the right to protect an individual’s right to disclose their religious affiliation, the government would accept an affidavit signed by the representative of the group asserting that it has 500 members in order to satisfy the requirements of the Law. 


However, if there is reasonable doubt about the accuracy of the information provided, the competent body (Ministry of Public Services) would, through an independent judicial inquiry, seek confirmation of the accuracy of the numbers while ensuring the privacy of the members and that their rights under the law would not be violated.


The unilateral removal of this agreed provision is very problematic and confirms the fear of many of us, that the government might use such a provision to deny or reject genuine requests for the registration of Religious Communities.


Article 13 - Associations


This article has been added to the Law without any consultation with the Working Group. 


It is of great concern to the Protestant Evangelical Community that

Associations / Unions of Natural Persons would not have any benefits or rights under this Law.  Not only are these groups ignored and given no rights in the Law but there is ambiguity with the definitions of all groups including ‘Religious Community’.  Additionally, Article 1 requires registration of Associations, which contradicts Article 13, calling into question the point of registering if no rights are granted as a result.


Article 11 – Categorization of ‘Religious Communities’


Despite declaring in the Preamble that the Law provides equal rights and obligations to Religious Communities without any discrimination, Article 11 makes a categorization of Religious Communities into ‘Existing Religious Communities’, that are traditional religions. However, ‘New Religious Communities’ will need to fulfill certain conditions to be registered. 


Our complaint is against the distinction that is being made between ‘Existing Religious Communities’ and ‘New Religious Communities’.  Being registered as a ‘New Religious Community’ infers that upon registration they will be categorized as a secondary group. All Religious Communities should be given equal treatment whether new, old or considered “traditional” and no one religion or religions should be singled out for special favour or treatment


The Liaison for Religious Affairs to the Prime Minister


From previous encounters with this representative, we believe the Protestant  Evangelical Community has due cause to be concerned about his neutrality and impartiality.  We believe his intentions are dubious and he is not working in the interest of all religious communities in Kosova.


Christianity in Kosova


The Christian Community is a minority in a predominantly Muslim community.  We have enjoyed freedom of worship since UNMIK assumed authority in Kosova but now we are afraid and concerned that the Law on Religious Freedom will jeopardize the freedom to worship we presently enjoy and that could diminish when UNMIK hands over the reigns of power.


We hope we have articulated the issues and clearly conveyed the concerns that affect the Christian family in Kosova


We ask for your prayers and your support of these serious issues that will affect the future of the Protestant Evangelical Community in Kosova and the right to exercise our religious freedom.   In light of the serious nature of recent events, we would like to urge Institutions to write letters regarding the above issues to the Kosova Government and UNMIK.


If you require further information, please email us on





Yours in Christ

Prishtina Churches




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