Mediation through Monasteries in Kosovo

The main objective of this project is to initiate a sustainable peace building process centered around the monasteries of Pec and Decani, empowering the actors involved and encouraging their recognition of the other parties to the conflict.

To view a short film, entitled ‘Shoes, walls, land and tables’, please click here.

Support

In order to initiate the first phase of the peace-building process, TransConflict and its partner, the Soul of Europe, aim to raise £15,000. If you are interested in supporting this important initiative, you can now do so safely and securely through PayPal by clicking on the icon below or by clicking here.

Background
The monasteries at Pec and Decani in Kosovo are revered not only by Kosovo Serbs, but by many Kosovo Albanians of various faiths. As such, they provide an important resource for strengthening inter-ethnic, inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding in Kosovo, despite the security challenges which mean that the respective monasteries are still protected by Kfor soldiers. Normalising relations between the respective communities, however, requires a peace-building process that empowers all the actors involved – the monks and nuns, civil society organizations, local governments, the media and other interested parties – and encouraging their recognition of the other parties to the conflict.

Though the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement outlines a number of provisions to ensure “the preservation and protection of cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo”, these in themselves are insufficient without initiating opportunities for meeting and dialogue. The Serbian Orthodox Church will remain a prominent feature of life in Kosovo, therefore it is imperative that steps be taken to engage the respective communities in taking steps to solve the tangible problems affecting relations at the local level. Through mediation, this project will help ensure that the conditions eventually exist to make the protective zones to be established around 40 key religious and cultural sites increasingly superfluous.

Objectives
The main objective of this project is to initiate a sustainable peace building process at Pec and Decani to help improve the security situation of the nuns and the monks.

Other strategic objectives include:

  • to improve community relations between the monasteries and the municipalities in Pec and Decani, resulting in the establishment of a Community Relations Council;
  • to contribute to renewed dialogue between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians, particularly inter-religious dialogue, as a model for improving relations elsewhere in Kosovo.
  • to guarantee human rights protection and freedom of movement for all citizens, thereby contributing to the continued democratization of Kosovo.
  • to stimulate religious and other forms of tourism, thereby promoting local economic development;

Planned Activities

This project will be comprised of the following activities:

a) Mapping Exercise - mapping is the way of discovering allies in Decani and Pec, and the rest of Kosovo, for the peace-building process, whilst simultaneously exposing the potential ‘spoilers’ who may oppose and obstruct such initiatives. Strategies for contending with potential spoilers will be formulated on the basis of lessons learned from the mapping process; a process that draws upon the expertise and insight of a variety of counterparts, particularly other civil society actors.

b) Plenary Meeting – the plenary meetings constitutes the first key meeting between all the main parties to the conflict. Preparation – ‘talking about talks’ – is key. Each of the participants will be asked to make proposals about who is to chair the meeting, its location, duration, and the numbers and status of the respective participants. Following the plenary meeting there will be a series of separate meetings with the participants to help them reflect on the meeting.

c) Working Groups - to contend with contentious issues raised at the plenary meeting, a number of working groups – overseen by a Steering Group of the key actors from the monasteries and the local communities – will be established. The issues – which will propose themselves during the initial phases of the project – are likely to include:

i) Land ownership and use;

ii) Security considerations – for instance, the building of a new wall around the monastery at Decani;

iii) Developing informal links between the monasteries and local communities.

d) Reflexion – experiences from the project will be shared with different Kosovo Albanian and Serb organizations, thereby providing an opportunity to ‘train’ people in the art of peace building; thereby fostering replication of the project elsewhere in Kosovo and contributing to its long-term sustainability.

Partners

The Soul of Europeaim to help those in conflict and post-conflict regions of the world to realise Nelson Mandela’s words – ‘You don’t make peace by talking to your friends; you have to make peace with your enemies’. The Soul of Europe, which has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2000, previously organised a conference at the International Centre for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral for the political, religious, business and community leaders of the Republika Srspka, which resulted in the creation of the Banja Luka Civic Forum, exchanges between schools in Banja Luka and Exeter (UK), and encouraging the rebuilding of the Ferhadija Mosque as a sign of Muslim-Christian collaboration. In 2006 the Soul of Europe was commissioned by the new owners of the iron ore mine at Omarska to bring together Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs in order to agree on a memorial to those killed their during the war of the early nineties.

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