The Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg
The Commissariat of the EU in the Republic of Macedonia
The Mission of OSCE in the Republic of Macedonia
The USA Embassy in the Republic of Macedonia
The Helsinki Committee in the Republic of Macedonia

Dearly respected,

Anastasija is an association of citizen in the Republic of Macedonia whose membership consists solely of women, and which with the support of the humanitarian organization Voskresenie from Bitola, has an aim to clarify, before the domestic and international public, the of the case of the Metropolitan of Veles and Povardarje and Exarch of Ohrid kyr John, unjustly persecuted, disdained and offended by the political regime in the Republic of Macedonia. His only guilt is his wish to be in unity with the Church of God, and that, together with the whole clergy of his eparchy, he entered liturgical and canonical unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church. To those who find it confusing why it was necessary to establish unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church, and not with someone else, we will try to give a brief explanation of this problem. As a matter of fact, in 1918 the Patriarchate of Constantinople ceded the eparchies on the territory of present Republic of Macedonia, which, since the abolition of the Ohrid Archbishopric, that is from 1767 until then (1918) were under its jurisdiction. This happened because after the First World War the respective territories became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, where the only recognized Orthodox Church was the Serbian Church. After the Second World War the Macedonian Orthodox Church was founded and its autonomy was recognized by the Orthodox Church in Serbia in 1958. In 1967 the Macedonian Orthodox Church proclaimed autocephaly in a putschistic manner, but this wasn’t accepted by the Serbian or by any other Orthodox Church in the world. All churches were informed well enough that this autocephaly was necessary not to the Church but to the communist regime in the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia in the frames of SFR Yugoslavia. Since the communist regime was not popular in the diaspora, the communists wanted to control it via the Church. They needed a Church independent from the Serbian Church, which would also be under control of the regime. They succeeded in that. Under the pressure from Tito and the regime they created a schism in the Church and they inserted among the bishops of the unrecognized “Autocephalous Macedonian Church” their own servants indebted to the authorities and through them they started to control the diaspora. Some of these bishops are still alive and they are the ultimate bastion of the communism in Macedonia.

Out of all this it is important to emphasise that the communist regime, which devastated the Churches in all the countries where it ruled, in Macedonia, the same, was engaged in favour of the autocephaly of the Church in Macedonia, but not out of its great concern for it, but so that it could, on one hand, weaken the strength of the Serbian Church, and on the other hand to control the diaspora through the Church.

The schism, which was created in 1967, has not been healed until the present day. The youngest bishop of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan of Veles and Povardarje kyr John, who is the only one from the present group of episcopes in the Synod of the Church in Macedonia who managed to enter it without the confirmation of the political regime in Macedonia, abandoned the schism and entered the unity with the entire Orthodox Church. In fact, this is considered to be his greatest sin now and for more than a year and a half he has been suffering an unprecedented terror from the political regime in Macedonia, but also from the regime’s media which offend him daily by using street jargon.

The Metropolitan John is the youngest, yet the most educated episcope in Macedonia. While all the other episcopes in the Synod of the MOC were chosen only according to their political suitability to the communist regime, the Metropolitan John acquired several academic titles. He graduated at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, then, he graduated at the Faculty of Theology and he finished his Master’s studies and Doctorate in Thessalonica. We shall repeat once again, his greatest sin is that at the summon from the Patriarch Paul, together with his clergy, from whom he received signatures of agreement, and together with the believing people he entered liturgical and canonical unity with the entire Orthodox Church. The other episcopes refused to do this out of political reasons. It was only a few days after joining the unity with the Orthodox Church, on 22 June, 2002, when the police of the Republic of Macedonia forced its way in the premises of the Metropolis of Veles and evicted the Metropolitan John out in the street, together with all his companions, without any court injunction. The Metropolitan John brought a charge against the police, but as it is known that the judiciary in Macedonia is under the directive of the political regime, the case was lost. Now, he has sent an Appeal to the Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. We, as organizations that have predetermined in our Statute of interests to fight for the human rights, we would like to present the case with the Metropolitan John, both before the domicile and international institutions, as a blatant example of violation of the human rights for freedom of religious confession in the Republic of Macedonia.

The regime condemned the Metropolitan John as a traitor because he agreed to do what three bishops from the Synod of the MOC had previously agreed to do in Nis, and even put their signatures to that, which is the naming of the Macedonian Orthodox Church as Ohrid Archbishopric, after the model of the old Churches which were named after the city where they were founded. What the Governments failed to achieve with decades, which is the naming of the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name in the international communication, was charged over the Metropolitan John by labelling him a traitor. They besmirched his name in the media accusing him of financial embezzlement, certainly without any evidence for that. All this was done by the model of the old communist regime in which the human rights to religious confession were as distant as the moon is from the sun. Even a without being an expert in law, after reading the testimonies from the witnesses in the court proceedings of Metropolitan John against the police of the Republic of Macedonia, one can see that he is a victim of the political regime which pulls the strings of the judiciary. All the testimonies are in favour of the plaintiff (Metropolitan John) whereas the verdicts of the court of original jurisdiction and the appellate court are against the plaintiff.

In order to prevent him from developing the church work which will soon show success, the regime arranges daily aggravation through the public prosecutor. First, the Public Prosecutor accused him of collaborating in a theft in Veles. After a long period of time, with all the obvious evidence, the court reluctantly found the Metropolitan not guilty. Immediately after that, another procedure was initiated while still in a process of investigation, but just to keep the Metropolitan involved in court proceedings, the public prosecutor instigated another trial. He was accused of the criminal act “autocracy”, and the court in Bitola sentenced him to one year of suspended sentence. He was convicted because he entered the orthodox temple “St. Dimitry” in Bitola to baptise his sister’s daughter. The court found it unimportant that the Church is separated from the state, that the Metropolitan John is recognized as an episcope by all Orthodox Churches in the world, that according to article 14 from the Law for religious communities and religious groups, the decisions of the religious communities are with internal meaning just for the communities themselves, but it was important that he was forbidden to enter the temples by the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church. The fact that the temple St. Dimitry in Bitola, where the event happened, was built in 1830; that one of the builders of the temple was the Metropolitan John’s grandfather; that there was no Macedonian Orthodox Church at that time, and that the same temple has been usurped by the same; that all the frescos and icons there are in Greek and witness that it was built by Greeks; seems to be irrelevant to the court. What was important was to sentence and to intimidate the Metropolitan John, and the fact that there were no arguments to initiate the trial is but a slight obstacle – the regime will invent them.

But, if he is willing to be a voluntary sacrifice for the Church then why are the members of his family blamed for his actions? He became a monk and left the family. The Church is his family now, but just as it was done by the communists, so it is by these neo-communists, for someone’s political incompatibility they persecute the entire family. It was not enough that the Metropolitan John was unjustly tried now the police have brought charges against the Metropolitan’s mother, accusing her of violating the public peace and order on the day of her granddaughter’s baptism at the temple St. Dimitry in Bitola. How is it possible for a 70-years-old lady to violate the public peace and order, when she herself, on that occasion, was injured by the police? We leave this to the judgement of the reader.

The police prevented the bishop John to carry out the baptism of his niece, and isn’t this a violation of the rights to a religious freedom not only to bishop John, but also to the parents of this little girl, as well as of the girl herself, although she is still very young?

The chaos which rules the courts in the Republic of Macedonia and the difficult economic situation of the citizens have made the people disinterested both in human rights and human freedom. The political regime is taking advantage of it. It wants to eliminate all the people who can act politically, may it even be in the field of religion or culture, just to have a monopoly over all aspects of living.

The culmination of all this is that the Metropolitan John and the members of his closer family are not the only ones who are affected, but it spreads daily over all the believers of the Ohrid Archbishopric. Therefore, the court refuses to register a firm to the sisters from Metropolitan John’s monastery, through which they would be able to work and make their living. In the developed European countries this would be treated as an attempt to homicide, for it is obvious that the goal of the authorities is to compel the nuns, as they have no means to make their living, to renounce the Metropolitan John. The monks and the nuns of four monasteries, making above thirty people who approached the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, in January this year, were most brutally forced out in the streets by the police. These people who had lived in the monasteries for years and raised them from the ashes they were in the period of communism are out on the streets now. A court proceeding is being conducted because they were evicted from their last peaceful abode, but just as it was the instance of the Metropolitan John who appealed for a similar case before the court for human rights in Strasbourg, the monks do not expect the corrupted judiciary to have the strength to contradict the authorities and to pass a judgment on the police.

On 11 January 2004, the Metropolitan John was arrested by the police in Bitola and the next day a charge was brought against him by the District Attorney in Bitola for the criminal act of ‘instigating national, racial and religious hatred'. The one who has devoted his life to Christ’s Gospel of love and peace is accused of spreading intolerance and hatred. The one who has put himself in the service of his people and his country is treated as traitor. With no evidence to support the charges he was put in pretrial detention and stayed there for 20 days to be released only after the immense pressure from the international governments and nongovernmental organizations. A few days ago the Criminal council of the court in Bitola rejected the appeal by his attorney and the Metropolitan is to be tried for the abovementioned case.

But the most tragic thing of all is that, on 20 February 2004, an assassination attempt was organized. It was only God’s miracle that saved him. God enlightened him as to leave the monastery St. John Chrysostom only 15 minutes before five outlaws with masks and armed with machine guns entered the monastery. Since they didn’t find the Metropolitan at the monastery, where that very day a session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric was held, the outlaws assaulted two nuns who were there by cutting their hair and then they set fire to the monastery. At this moment it is difficult to say who had organized the assassination, but it is a fact that exactly during the act of vandalism and burning the monastery, the Metropolitan John’s mobile phone was disconnected so that nobody could reach him and he could not reach anyone either. We leave it to the reader to deduce who has the access to tap and control the telephony.

The thing is that the State has created an “excellent” atmosphere for all this to happen. On 23 January 2004, the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia passed a “Declaration for support of the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church” which is entirely contradictory to the international convention for human rights and freedom of religious confession, also signed by the Republic of Macedonia. Namely, the first and second item of that Declaration protect the MOC which is in schism with all the Orthodox Churches in the world, and at the cost of abolishing all the religious rights and freedom to those who do not wish to be members of that schismatic organization. The Declaration intercedes in favour of “the unity of the Macedonian Orthodox Church”, which means that the legislative body, the Assembly, is against all the people who do not wish to be members of the schismatic MOC. We have already mentioned that the executive authorities, the police, have been persecuting the Metropolitan every day for more than a year and a half, and recently, they started persecuting all members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric. He was evicted from the last peaceful abode in Veles without a court injunction, and a few months ago, the same repeated with the thirty monks and nuns who were evicted from their monasteries only because they abandoned the MOC and approached the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric. The police quite frequently search not only the houses of the monks but also the houses of all adherents of the only Orthodox Church recognized on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia, and that is the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, with an injunction that they search for materials for the criminal act of 'instigating national and religious hatred'. When the monastery was set on fire, the police searched the place without an injunction and took a number of objects which have never been returned, nor do they intend to return them. The court authorities are also involved in the case. They unreservedly support the executive authorities and accept all sorts of accusation against the Metropolitan John. To be more precise, he has been sentenced to one year of imprisonment for the criminal act of “autocracy”, but at the moment two more criminal proceedings are being conducted against him, one for “embezzlement” at the court in Veles and one at the court in Bitola for “instigating national and religious hatred”, as well as two charges of infraction in the court of Bitola for violation of the public peace and order. Despite the fact that, according to the Law in the Republic of Macedonia, one is allowed to perform religious rites on one’s private property, the police enter the home of Metropolitan John at will and arrest him and the present, while charging some of them for violating the public peace and order. Finally, the court in Bitola has started a procedure for repealing of the NGO Anastasija, which is sending this letter, only because it stands in defence of someone deprived of his rights such as the Metropolitan John. The same is also charged with “instigating national and religious hatred” because they published the leaflet which we are enclosing and which defends the deprived person of the Metropolitan John.

Such are the rights of freedom of religious confession in the Republic of Macedonia.

We would like to help the Court for human rights in Strasbourg, which has agreed to decide upon the appeal of Metropolitan John, and to obtain further information of the events regarding his person. But, we would also like to introduce all the abovementioned titles of the brutal violation of the basic human rights and the right of freedom of religious confession happening in the Republic of Macedonia.

With respect,

Nongovernmental association of citizens
Mirka Ginova 13/31
Bitola 7000 – Macedonia

Nongovernmental humanitarian organization
Panda Cesnova
Bitola 7000 – Macedonia
fах. + 389 47 222395