After much of attempt and a long and hard work, the Kosova Assembly adopted the Law on freedom of religion in Kosova.
The Provisional Institutions of Self Government had hired a number of experts, both national and internationals, and had enrolled into working groups representatives of different religious communities (as indeed foreseen at the Constitution of the Republic of Kosova) for the drafting of such Law. The Kosova Protestant Evangelical Church (KPEC) was represented into such working groups through Pastor Artur Krasniqi.
The progress of the process would be guaranteed by the willingness of all parties involved in drafting, to create a Law that in its essence would be a guarantee of the freedom of religion in Kosova and not prohibitory of the activities of religious communities in Kosova. Initially there were some tendencies to take as the basis for discussion the Bosnian Law of religion, which in general was judged as quite discriminatory. There were also pressures made by a particular religious community that Kosova should lean toward some sort of theocratic type of governance.
Many drafts and many versions were flying around where as the working groups every week discussed some new proposals.
At last, on 13.07.2006, The Kosova Assembly adopted the Law which is known as “The Law on Freedom of Religion” No 2006/02-L31. According to the Kosovo legislation in effect, after the adoption of any Law by the Kosova Assembly, such Law would only enter into force after it is promulgated in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Kosova.
The aforementioned Law contains a total of 14 sections; however it is section 5.4 which has clarified many things as far as the real situation of religious diversity is concerned. According to this clause, which was promulgated by the aforementioned UNMIK Regulation, rules that “To all religions and their communes in Kosovo including Islamic Community of Kosovo, Serbian Orthodox Church, Catholic Church, Hebrew Belief Community, and Evangelist Church, shall be offered any kind of protection and opportunity in order to have rights and freedom foreseen by this law”.
This is indeed a great achievement for Kosova to approve such an all-embracing and advanced Law. The news for such Law was spread fast and was welcomed by all people of goodwill and pro-religious tolerance parties of Kosova. The freedom of religion is the key to freedom of conscience, expression and freedom of speech.
The non definition of legal status of religious communities in Kosova
During the time this Law was being drafted, there was a danger that a Law that is meant to define the freedom of religion could turn into an instrument for putting religious limitations in the country. Such a very sensitive issue could have easy turned into a divisive point between the different religious communities with major negative repercussions in the public discourse. Seeing this potential danger, it is likely that experts had decided that the Law on freedom of religion would only regulate the religious freedom in the country, sweeping aside for time being the issue of legal position of religious communities.
With the non definition of the legal position of religious communities in Kosova, losses are big in many dimensions. Religious communities do not know well their rights. However, such legal vacuum puts the government institutions into e even worse situation, which in absence of a legal infrastructure become suppositional in dealing with many requests that come from various religious communities. Such difficult situation is worsened by the “positive discrimination” that is applied toward the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Consequences of the lack of legal definition
The Religious Community – the Kosova Protestant Evangelical Church and its local churches in Kosova – are the ones mostly suffering by the lack of a clear definition of the legal position of religious communities in Kosova:
- Protestant churches face hardships in registering their assets and other immovable properties in the name of their church.
- To the Protestant churches it is denied the right to build protestant churches throughout the country.
- To the Protestant churches it is denied the right to have their own protestant graveyards in various municipalities in the country.
Therefore, it is the time for the Government of the Republic of Kosova to begin finding a way to draft a law which would define in an affirmative way the legal position of religious communities in Kosova, which are already listed in the Law on Freedom of Religion.
One inseparable Law
The public opinion is often confused when it comes to the Law on Religion. This is for the fact that often people think there are two separate Laws in hand: First, adopted by the Kosova Assembly, which does not contain section 5.4 where as the second is the one promulgated at the Official Gazette of the Republic of Kosova, which has incorporated the full amendment.
In spite of legitimate misconceptions, there is nothing disputing. In the official website of the Kosova Parliament, in list of Laws, there is found also this Law. However, it is important to emphasise the fact that underneath the name is it clearly stated that “This Law is applicable together with the UNMIK Regulation No 2006/48 dated 24.08.2006”. On the other hand, in the Official Gazette this very Law has been promulgated together with the full text; with the amendment.
Hence, there is no dilemma; the Law is one and inseparable!