Communique of Jasenovac Committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Jasenovac Committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church met on July 14, 2005 in the bishop’s residence in Banja Luka. Out of its concern for the preservation of remembrance of this new Serbian Kosovo, of the Great-martyred Jasenovac as an event that changed Serbian history, the Holy Assembly of Bishops in 2003 founded the Jasenovac Committee, giving it the task of taking care of the Remembrance of the Newly Martyred and the locations where they perished.
In addition to the members of the Jasenovac Committee, the meeting was also attended by His Grace Bishop Joanikije of Budimlje and Niksic, a member of the Holy Synod of Bishops; Mr. Jovo Turanjanin of the Republika Srpska Secretariat for Religions; and Professor Vladimir Lukic, chairman of the Council for the Commemoration of the Sixty-Anniversary of the Liberation of Jasenovac.
Gathering in the home of Bishop Jefrem of Banja Luka and chaired by Bishop Atanasije (Jevtic), the members of the Jasenovac Committee expressed their joy that the commemoration of the sixty-year anniversary of the liberation of Jasenovac on April 17 of this year (2005) took place in an dignified manner and in the presence of a large number of attendees in the Memorial Zone of Donja Gradina, especially young people, who need to accept the tradition regarding the extermination at Jasenovac and pass it on through history.
A special joy was the fact that the anniversary took place in cooperation between all three of the peoples who suffered [at Jasenovac]: the Serbs, the Jews and the Roma. It was observed that, unfortunately, in Serbia and Montenegro this anniversary was not given anywhere near as much significance as in Republika Srpska.
During the meeting the members of the Jasenovac Committee conducted a brief overview of their two years of work. They devoted special attention to the future of the Memorial Zone of Donja Gradina and considered its memorial and educational uses, and the possibility of constructing a church in Donja Gradina to provide liturgical and traditional remembrance of the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp.
The Council confirmed the need to incorporate the execution site in Draksenic into the Memorial Zone of Donja Gradina complex. The Council is willing to support all projects – scientific, memorial or educational – that will contribute to the finding and publishing of the truth regarding the Jasenovac death camp. For this purpose it will make every effort to ensure that the roundtable of historians held this year in Banja Luka becomes a regular event.
The Council was also most pleased to learn that in its report regarding education about the Holocaust in the Western world, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) included the work of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Jasenovac Committee on education of teachers among the five most exemplary projects in the world.
The Jasenovac Committee will be organizing a seminar in October 2005 for seminary professors on Jasenovac, the New Martyrs and the Holocaust as the historical framework within which Jasenovac occurred. At the same time, the Jasenovac Committee will draw the attention of the Ministries of Education of Serbia and Republika Srpska to the importance of the Stockholm Declaration on education regarding the Holocaust, the signing of which offers many opportunities for the accurate and proper presentation of the tragedy of the Second World War and its transmission to generations to come.
For that purpose the Jasenovac Committee will establish, in addition to the already existing excellent cooperation with the Yad Vashem Memorial Center in Jerusalem where our students are regularly sent to be educated, cooperation with other centers of this type in the world.
The Council placed special emphasis on the need for the liturgical cult of the New Martyrs of Jasenovac to be transmitted to Orthodoxy as a whole, especially that the Service to the New Martyrs be translated into the languages of various peoples and then presented to local Orthodox Churches.
After the meeting Bishop Atanasije (Jevtic) visited Bishop Hrizostom of Bihac and Petrovac and they then visited execution site of Susnjar near Sanski Most, which operated 1941-44, and Garavice near Bihac, and the Crna Ruka abyss near Krupa. On that occasion, Bishop Hrizostom was kindly requested to join the Jasenovac Committee as its tenth member, which he accepted.
Bishop Joanikije visited and served memorial services at the execution sites of Montenegrin patriots in Sibovi and Vrbas Logor near Banja Luka, and Kukulje in Lijevce Polje, and the “brain cemetery” in Draksenic in Potkozarje. The following day, the members of the Committee visited the Memorial Zone of Donja Gradina and served a memorial service, then visited Bishop Sava of Slavonija in Jasenovac. Finally, the members of the Committee visited the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp, where they were warmly received by the director of the Memorial Zone, Natasa Jovicic, and her associates. Bishop Joanikije served the concluding memorial service at one of the mass graves at Jasenovac.
In conclusion, the members of Jasenovac Committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops wish to express the hope and conviction that the sixty-year anniversary of the liberation of Jasenovac will not be, as in the past, an event after which Jasenovac and Donja Gradina will be miserably neglected until next year. Although late in the coming, the truth about the suffering at Jasenovac – for Christ and the Serb name – is indestructible and at our door because if people become silent, the stones themselves will begin to speak. However, to get to the truth about the Orthodox Serbs, the most numerous victims in Jasenovac, and about our brothers in suffering, the Jews, the Roma and the anti-fascists, there is still much effort, work and mutual cooperation and understanding to be done on the part of all those who are working on this blessed and salvation-bearing truth, the Truth which is the name of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ the God-Man (John 19:6).
Only with the full truth about Jasenovac, covered up and hidden for over half a century, will it be possible to gauge all of the history that has occurred after Great-Martyred Jasenovac because in addition to knowledge, we will have also have a pure eye accustomed to the truth, which is so necessary in our age of discord and deception, which only the Light of the Lord can shine through and shine upon.