PRESIDENT JAHJAGA’S SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE SECOND INTERFAITH CONFERENCE AS PART OF THE WEEK OF RECONCILIATION AND INTERFATIH TOLERANCE

I would like to wish you a warm welcome at the second interfaith conference, a traditional event which aims to strengthen the interfaith dialogue in Kosovo and building of mutual trust between the lay state and religious communities in Kosovo.

Honourable leaders of the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo,
Leaders of religious communities in Kosovo,
Ambassadors and Heads of International Missions in Kosovo,
Honourable guests, ladies and gentlemen;

I would like to wish you a warm welcome at the second interfaith conference, a traditional event which aims to strengthen the interfaith dialogue in Kosovo and building of mutual trust between the lay state and religious communities in Kosovo.

This year, organisers of this conference and its supporters chose to gather together scholars, practitioners and experts of various fields to discuss the role and contribution of religious faith to secular societies and building of a proper relationship between laity and freedom to practice religion, which would guarantee cohabitation and harmony for all citizens of Kosovo, both religious and non-religious.

Lead by this conviction, I have the pleasure to share with you some observations, right here in Prizren, in this city which embodies our rich cultural tradition, this city where call to prayer melts with the sounds of church bells. A place holds together under one roof the medieval castle, the Serbian orthodox churches of the 14th century, the seat of the Catholic Church of Kosovo and the magnificent Sinan Pasha Mosque.

As a young state, Kosovo is faced by many challenges on its path to establishment of a meaningful democracy, building of a sustainable economy and strengthening of its international subjectivity. Nevertheless, citizens of Kosovo have dealt with these challenges with hope and enthusiasm percepting and understanding this journey as a historic chance of ours to establish a state of equal opportunities for all citizens, irrespective of ethnic and religious background.

Some time ago, we were involved in a war which left deep wounds, and many unresolved issues, including the necessity to rebuild relations which hold our society united and to address the mistrust sawn among us.

To overcome this war heritage, we adopted the approach based on our tradition of cohabitation, which is far longer than the period of our disagreements, on the idea that peace and stability cannot be built under duress and pressure and that economic prosperity and ideals of democracy cannot be realized without ending of animosities.

To determine this path towards our aim of creating a Kosovo as a home of all of its citizens, we took as example our multifaceted tradition of cultures and cohabitation between them cultivated by our predecessors.

Honourable participants,

It is exactly this spirit of cohabitation and values of traditional religions in Kosovo which must be our compass in further state building stages of our young state. Our Constitution, which obligates us to building of a sovereign state of equals, is very clear on the separation of state and religion. It guarantees the religious freedom and ingrains in itself the dedication which we must implement to realize for the respect and protection of religious monuments.

There are no contradictions between the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo and the religious policy, as both are based upon the respect and love for multitude, for diversity.

Religion, above all, not only fulfils the spiritual needs of these people but also ensured the dedication and that of their supporters towards a religious community and values which influence behaviour and public activity. Because religion is not only a private issue, but often is a broad positive force, manifested as love and care for one another.

This added value that religion brings to our societies we have also experienced in our history, personified in the figure of Mother Teresa, who dedicated her life to alleviation of poverty and sufferings of communities expulsed to the margins of society. In the figure of Baba Qazim Bakalli, who converted his activities within the Gjakova Tekke into a mission for the emancipation and education of the population, irrespective of gender?  In the nobility of hundreds of imams who served for generations in the ranks of Islamic Community, mobilising in solidarization with citizens in the worst of times.

It is a challenge for all of us to conserve this heritage of interfaith tolerance. That this agenda of ours for dedication to our traditional values is not hijacked by expulsive policies which create division and animosity between people.

Such an episode  we have already seen in the past and we see it appear in Balkans with destruction of mosques and churches, attacks against mosques and churches, hatred towards people who do not belong to the same religion or share the same values- and we must once and for all disconnect ourselves from such a mentality.

Let us remind ourselves and others that our tradition, expressed in our cultural heritage and physically ingrained in the religious monuments around Kosovo, is our greatest wealth.