Diocese of Raška and Prizren warns the clergy, monastics and its faithful on suspicious activities of the humanitarian organization "28 June"
Raška-Prizren Diocese warns priests, monastics, and laity of the suspicious activities of the “28 June” humanitarian organization
With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Teodosije, the Diocese of Raška-Prizren releases an official communication today for the public concerning the activities of a humanitarian organization known as “28 June” (Serbian: 28. Jun). This organization publicly presents itself as being almost the most active humanitarian organization helping Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and as a bold advocate for the rights of Serbs in the region. However, based on the information we have gathered, it seems more than obvious that it is quite possible that the organization is misusing the funds which it constantly gathers through social media campaigns. It has these campaigns despite the fact that it has never collaborated with the Diocese of Raška-Prizren and operates completely without the Church’s blessing, unlike numerous other trustworthy and honest humanitarian organizations which are involved in helping the people of Kosovo and Metohija. The Diocese has forbidden its priests and monastics to have any contact with this organization, and strongly advises the laity to be careful due to the possibility of a misuse of funds.
Given that the 28 June humanitarian organization, which is registered in Belgrade (in the Savski Venac municipality), often posts on social media that it provides a large amount of humanitarian aid for the people of Kosovo and Metohija and that it collaborates with our Church here, we consider it necessary to inform the public of the following:
The 28 June humanitarian organization has never been in any kind of official contact with the Raška-Prizren Diocese, nor has it ever given any kind of aid to our monasteries or churches through our priests with the blessing of our Bishop. All of the news which is published about working together with our Church in Kosovo and Metohija is simply made up, most likely with the intent of manipulating the public.
In its latest post from 12 February, the aforementioned organization, among other things, extols recent visits and “donations” to the monasteries of the Holy Archangels near Prizren and Devina Voda near Zvečan. According to the facts we have gathered, neither monastery has either asked for nor received anything from the 28 June organization. In fact, their recent post is an attempt to publicly misrepresent a smaller donation from an individual layperson abroad to Devina Voda Monastery as a gift from 28 June and to use this to start a larger campaign to gather money for that monastery. This is indeed a rather base example of the abuses committed by the 28 June organization, and is an indication that the fundraising campaigns they have begun have no oversight of how funds will be used, and all of this is done supposedly to help our monasteries. The pictures taken by members of the 28 June organization in some of our monasteries and holy sites is nothing more than a dishonest attempt at creating the impression that their organization operates with the blessing of the Diocese of Raška-Prizren, to get the public to trust them and give them money to help Kosovo. Following the appearance of these photographs on social media along with descriptions about alleged large amounts of aid being given to our monasteries, all of our monasteries and churches are warned to avoid any kind of contact with individuals who work with this organization in any way.
One other instance of inaccurate information being spread by the 28 June organization took place at the end of 2018. Essentially, there was a truckload of humanitarian aid which, according to multiple media sources on 29 December 2018, allegedly arrived via this organization, intended for soup kitchens and the Đurđevak kindergarten. This truckload of aid was actually organized by the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral along with the Čovekoljublje (Philanthropy) humanitarian organization of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The truth is that only a small amount of the goods sent at the last minute were gathered by 28 June, which in the media was presented as being the main organizer of the aid campaign. In multiple media sources, it was reported that the 28 June organization promoted itself through the campaign as “the primary humanitarian organization from central Serbia which delivers aid to Serbian enclaves in Kosovo” (Večernje novosti daily, 29 December). At the same time, the organization itself announced that it “broke through the blockade on Serbian goods with its urgent food delivery.” This information is untrue as humanitarian aid from other organizations which conduct their work together with the Diocese regularly arrives from central Serbia and Montenegro without incident, including following the imposition of taxes on goods coming from central Serbia.
The Diocese of Raška-Prizren was informed of the 28 June organization’s media activities by numerous priests and lay people who were concerned about the email communications and social media posts coming from the organization, which alleged that they had been giving large amounts of humanitarian aid for years to Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. However, according to the information we have gathered up to the present, these claims are entirely unsupported by anything except for a few pictures on social media with a few packages or items which have the 28 June logo affixed to them. If they provided any smaller amounts of humanitarian aid, then this was done without the blessing or knowledge of the Diocese, and most likely, simply with the intent to present the organization as being an ardent benefactor of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. If this were not the case, then the organization would have worked transparently and with the Diocese’s blessing, like other humanitarian organizations which help the people and holy sites of Kosovo do.
Considering that the potential irregularities of this organization have been brought to our attention by other, trust-worthy humanitarian organizations with whom the Diocese has worked before, including benefactors from the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand and the Diocese of Eastern America, we have asked our priests to regularly inform us of any planned activities of this organization within the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, so that we might compare them with the media reports put out by 28 June. Therefore, we advise all of the faithful of our Diocese to exercise the greatest caution when dealing with the aforementioned organization due to the well-founded doubts concerning its potential misuses of funds.
Furthermore, the activities of the 28 June organization regarding a petition to protect Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and to protect our cultural heritage here was completely unknown to our Diocese and were not done with the blessing of our Bishop, and as far as we know, also without the blessing of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. We are very concerned that this has been done to create a virtual image of 28 June as a deeply patriotic organization. This question is one which we ultimately leave to the Serbian State and its relevant institutions to verify the organization and its work. The relevant authorities should verify the claims made by this organization in order to prevent abuses of any kind, which could be committed based on a falsely created image of a close cooperation with the Diocese of Raška-Prizren.
We would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church which regularly send humanitarian aid with the proper episcopal blessings, along with the Office for Kosovo and Metohija of the Government of Serbia and other humanitarian organizations, including: Serbs for Serbs (Serbian: Srbi za Srbe), Solidarité Kosovo run by Arnaud Gouillon, the Dečani Monastery Relief Fund run by Fr. Nektarios Serfes from America, the IOCC, Youth for Kosmet (Serbian: Mladi za Kosmet) from Podgorica, along with other organizations, who for many years have worked with our episcopal blessing and actively help our believing people in Kosovo and Metohija.
Issued by the Office of the Diocese of Raška-Prizren
Prizren-Gračanica, February 14, 2019.