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Protests in Serbia Archive
Bob Djurdjevic on the Serbian Patriarch

An opinion column...

 Patriarch Pavle Is the Epitome of What George Bush Had Preached
for America in 1988, But Never Delivered While in Office

                     A "KINDER, GENTLER" MAN
                        By Bob Djurdjevic

    Parting the Sea of the "Men in Blue" on Belgrade Streets
PHOENIX, Jan. 29 - It was an awesome display of spiritual power over
brute police force.  On January 27, the Serbian Saint Sava Day,
Patriarch Pavle led a procession of over 100,000 people through the
streets of Belgrade as the Slobodan Milosevic riot police backed away. 
Like a tiny Moses, the 81-year old leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church
parted the sea of the "men in blue" who had been blocking the streets in
the city center around the clock for days, and clubbing the
pro-democracy demonstrators for three days in a row.  It was the largest
religious procession in Serbia since World War II. 

"In contrast to the noisy pro-democracy demonstrations of students and
opposition parties, Monday's procession - marking the holiday of St.
Sava, the founding father of the Serbian Orthodox Church - wove silently
through the heart of the capital," Associated Press reported from
Belgrade.  "The only sounds were the chanting of St. Sava's liturgy by
dozens of Orthodox priests in flowing robes who headed the procession,
and bursts of applause for Patriarch Pavle, head of the church."

Yet you'd never get a sense of such personal power when you meet the
diminutive leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  The first time I
talked to His Holiness, I was struck by his kindness and gentleness. 
That was back in 1991, when our president was George W. Bush, the man
who preached a "kinder, gentler" image for America during the 1988
election campaign, but who delivered "blood and guts" to American
families instead.  Think the Panama invasion, the Gulf War, Somalia... 

"It is not for us to judge (other people)," Patriarch Pavle told me
during our first meeting.  "That's something God will do.  All we can do
is try to do our best.  (And trust that) He will weigh everything
precisely and fairly."

"Kinder, gentler," has been the image which His Holiness has also
demonstrated in many subsequent meetings we've had.  And humble, too. 
When I sent a personal emissary one day last fall to pick up a letter
from the Patriarch Pavle blessing a humanitarian action in which I was
involved, His Holiness did not like the draft which his cabinet had
presented.  My emissary offered to type up the changes for him.  "Oh,
no, no... I'll do it," the Serbian Patriarch replied.  "You don't know
the quirks of my typewriter."  With that, he sat down and typed up the
letter with his own hands.  Our mission could not have been any more

No wonder Patriarch Pavle is widely regarded as a "living saint."  Not
the least of the reasons is his ascetic life style.  Several years ago,
for example, he told me that he never watched TV.

And that's good, the Westerners may wonder, brought up on daily fare of
soap operas or nightly news?

Well, it has its advantages... You can't be brainwashed by electronic
media if you don't watch it, can you?  Being dedicated to God, rather
than to pursuit of earthly power, has helped the Serbian Patriarch avoid
the trauma of having to see, day in and day out during the Bosnian and
Croatian wars, the Western media's lies and distortions about his
beloved flock.

It is all the more ironic, therefore, that this "living saint" and the
church he leads have been attacked lately by some people in the West as
being supposedly "nationalistic."  

In his January 16 Washington news conference, Congressman Bruce Vento
(D-MN) reportedly said that he was "concerned by the nationalistic
display of the Orthodox church in Serbia."  And he called for "some
ecumenical effort" in the United States against the Serbian Orthodox
Churchs alleged nationalism.

In my subsequent letter to Congressman Vento, I asked him to flip his
argument around.  Suppose the U.S. government, with the help of foreign
troops (e.g., NATO), drives over 200,000 Italian-Americans out of
Minnesota and into Canada, killing several hundred helpless elderly
civilians in the process.  Suppose the Pope, in defense of his Catholic
Italian-American flock, publicly condemned such an atrocity.  

"Would you call that 'nationalism?'," I asked the Congressman.  "Would
that warrant an American 'ecumenical effort' to teach the Catholic
Pontiff a lesson about his extreme nationalism?"

If not, why attack the Serbian Orthodox Church which did nothing more
than condemn the pogroms against its flock, as the Pope might have done
in the above hypothetical situation if the Catholics were being
persecuted.  And as the worlds 250 million Orthodox Christians did when
they stood by the Bosnian and the Krajina Serbs at the time of their

Nor is Congressman Vento's outburst an isolated attack on the Serbian
Orthodox Christian church.  The Paris-based L'Express carried a cartoon
on Jan. 9 depicting Patriarch Pavle as an apologist for the alleged
"ethnic cleansing."

And the European edition of the Wall Street Journal published an OpEd
piece on Jan. 27 by Mark Almond, an Oxford University lecturer, in which
the author asserted that some Belgrade opposition leaders and the Holy
Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church "have been the off-stage chorus to
genocide in Bosnia."

Such charges are preposterous, of course, as the Serbs have been the
greatest victims of "ethnic cleansing," especially in Croatia.  When the
U.S.-aided Croatian army attacked the Serbs in the Krajina and Western
Bosnia in August 1995, it forced the largest exodus of civilian
population in Europe since World War II.  Over 200,000 Serb civilians
fled their centuries-old homesteads with their lives.  Today, Serbia is
home to more than 600,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia.

So where did Congressman Vento and others like him get the idea that the
Serbian Orthodox Church had sanctioned the "ethnic cleansing?"
Well, we don't know for sure, but he did visit Zagreb, Croatia, on his
recent trip to the Balkans.  One Truth in Media member from Wisconsin
has told us about a 1996 book entitled "Serbian Orthodox Church and
Fascism," written by Ljubica Stefan, and published in Zagreb.  The book
is the latest Croat effort to rewrite history.  It accuses the Serbs,
our allies in World War II and victims of the pro-Nazi puppet government
in Croatia, of collaboration with the Nazis!?  

That's like charging the Jews with the Holocaust.  Accusing the Serbian
Patriarch of being an accomplice to crimes committed by Godless
communists, like Slobodan Milosevic and his government, is no less

Just consider the following message which His Holiness had given me in a
telephone call on Sept. 8, 1995, to pass on to the Phoenix protesters
against the NATO bombing of the Serbs in Bosnia.  I read it at a street
demonstration in front of the Arizona State Capitol on Sept. 9, 1995: 

>"As I always say, we must be (decent) people, never beasts.  
>According to Christ's word, 'Don't be afraid, even if you perish.  I was 
>the first and the last living person who was dead.  And here I am - 
>alive for centuries.' 
>Don't be afraid of anything except of sin.  This is not the first time 
>misfortune has hit our people.  We can only hope that, with God's help, 
>it is the last time.
>But as God's people, we must always be on the side of the holy, the 
>honest, and the dear God-pleasing.
>That is my message to the people."

At the time when all the might of NATO was being deployed against the
Bosnian Serbs, destroying their military infrastructure as well as
killing many civilians in "collateral damage," His Holiness chose to
remind the Serb people not to be afraid of anything except of sin.  And
to always stand on the side of "the holy, the honest, and the dear

And that's "nationalism?"  That's endorsement of "ethnic cleansing?"

To me, this sounded more like another example of a "kinder, gentler" man
that Patriarch Pavle is.  Unlike the dictators who rule with brute
force, unlike the religious leaders, like the Pope, who command by the
strength of their centralized, corporate-like global organizations, the
heads of the autonomous Orthodox Christian churches, like the Serbian
one, would never presume to dictate policy to another nation's
Patriarchs.  Or vice versa.  The Orthodox Patriarchs lead their flock by
the strength of their moral authority.  And by example.  That's why the
tiny Pavle parted the sea of the "men in blue" as easily as Moses had
parted the Red Sea.

Is that the kind of power the West is afraid of?  Because a strong
church and a real democracy can return the authority which the globalist
elites have usurped back to the people?

If so, the fear is misplaced.  "Don't be afraid of anything except of
sin," His Holiness counseled.  Western Christians should emulate such
religious leaders as Patriarch Pavle, not slander them as Congressman
Vento and others like him did.  For, in the end, God "will weigh
everything precisely and fairly."  Including the globalist elites. 

Bob Djurdjevic
Attribution: Bob Djurdjevic is a Phoenix-based businessman and writer. 
He writes about economic and foreign policy issues.

Bob Djurdjevic
Phoenix, Arizona
e-mail: bobdj@djurdjevic.com

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