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[tmattingly-weekly] 07/30: The monster was not hiding in church

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  • emrys@globe.net.nz
    This column was syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service on 07/30/2008 For a dozen years, they hunted Europe s most notorious war criminal. Investigators knew
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2008
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      This column was syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service on 07/30/2008

      For a dozen years, they hunted Europe's most notorious war criminal.

      Investigators knew exactly where they thought they would find former
      Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the man accused of masterminding the
      1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

      After his July 21 arrest, most media reports echoed vague statements in
      The New York Times in which unidentified voices said Karadzic "eluded
      arrest so long by shaving his swoopy gray hair and disguising himself as a
      Serbian Orthodox priest. He reportedly hid out in caves in the mountains of
      eastern Bosnia and in monasteries."

      "Of course they were wrong," said Metropolitan Christopher, leader of the
      Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America. "It was not true, to
      say that the Serbian church was hiding him. It appears that he was living
      right there in clear view, practicing alternative forms of medicine in
      front of everybody."

      The Times updated its first report, adding that for "some of those years"
      the fugitive lived under an assumed name in Belgrade. A second-day report
      conceded that Karadzic "was not in a distant monastery or a dark cave when
      caught at last, but living in Serbia's capital."

      Instead of shaving his photogenic silver hair and pretending to be a
      priest, the former president of the Bosnian Serb mini-state had built a
      new identity based on his career as a psychologist -- becoming Dr. Dragan
      David Dabic, expert on meditation, unorthodox therapy techniques and
      herbal treatments from the East. He was, observers said, a self-made guru
      with dashes of Freud, a Bohemian poet who resembled Santa Claus, complete
      with a bushy white beard and long hair, including a ponytail. He published
      journal articles, gave public lectures and lived with a young mistress.

      Blend all that together and, according to ABC News, what you get is an
      "Orthodox mystic."

      "It's like that old saying that you can't fight city hall," said
      Metropolitan Christopher, in frustration. Journalists and outsiders "want
      to link all of this to the Serbian Orthodox Church. And they want to say
      that all Serbs, everywhere, are guilty of the actions of these violent men
      and that, most of all, the Serbs are the only people who have ever done
      these terrible things to their neighbors. ...

      "They forget that men like Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic were enemies of
      the church and used violence against the Orthodox, too. Our bishops were
      jailed and beaten for opposing the regime behind this violence."

      As the Serbian Orthodox bishops proclaimed, at one of the worst moments in
      the fighting, the "way of non-violence and cooperation is the only way
      blessed by God in agreement with human and divine moral law and

      There was also an interfaith appeal for peace in 1999, signed by Orthodox
      Patriarch Pavle, Catholic Archbishop Franc Perko, Mufti Hamdija
      Jusufspahic and Rabbi Isak Asiel. It called for a total ceasefire and the
      return of all refuges -- Serbs, Albanians and Croats -- to their homes.

      "Even as evil cannot be overcome by evil, so peace and harmony cannot be
      attained by war," said that statement from Belgrade. "To be a peacemaker
      is the greatest duty and most noble obligation of every man. That is why
      we are not afraid to be the first to extend the hand of peace to one

      Hardly anyone was listening.

      Truth is, Orthodox Christianity does play a major role in defining the
      history and identity of the Serbs. It is also true that Orthodox leaders
      have opposed the break up of their homeland and, in particular, the loss
      of Kosovo -- a state containing more than 1,000 historic churches and
      monasteries. Serbs have pled with Western officials to intervene and stop
      the destruction of many priceless sanctuaries.

      The lines between faith and ethnicity are often blurred in the Balkans. In
      this violent, splintered and ravaged region, Karadzic -- who remains a hero
      to Serb radicals -- may have found refuge for some period of time with the
      help of some priests or monks, acting on their own.

      "We hear accusations against Orthodox people, but we never seem to hear
      who, what, when and where," said Metropolitan Christopher. "If it's true,
      we need to know facts. But it is wrong for the media to keep making vague
      accusations against our whole church in this way, which only makes things
      worse for those who have endured so much."

      Terry Mattingly (www.tmatt.net) directs the Washington Journalism Center
      at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes this
      weekly column for the Scripps Howard News Service.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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