Romani Pentecostals attacked in Yugoslavia

05 December 2000

On September 26, 2000, according to an October 6 report by the Keston Institute, an Oxford-based non-governmental organisation monitoring religious liberties, a group of thirteen young men armed with sticks, bats and chains attacked two Romani women and one Romani man, all members of a Romani Pentecostal church, in the southern Yugoslav town of Leskovac. At least one of the women was injured in the arm and back. The attack took place on the street just outside the church building. By the time the police arrived at the scene, the attackers had fled. The police made a cursory initial search but halted investigations shortly thereafter, claiming that they had other pressing tasks. The attack took place two days after three young men had broken into the church's evening service and threatened the congregation, throwing firecrackers and shouting that they would force the "Gypsies" to leave town. The church informed the police about the incident the same evening and also sent the police a written report.

Reverend Stefan Stanković, assistant pastor of the Leskovac Pentecostal church, said that after the second attack, the local police chief came to visit the church. He advised them to file accusations against the attackers with medical documentation and promised that he would make sure the papers reached "the right people". In the wake of the attack, the church altered the times of services, arranged for groups of church members to leave the building together and to be escorted to the city center or the police station, and posted stewards in front of the building. On November 24, in a telephone interview with the , Reverend Stanković reported that the attackers had not been found, but there had been no further threats, and that the church had resumed services at the regular times. The Pentecostal church in Leskovac was founded by the neighbouring Serbian Pentecostal Church several years ago and is reported to be the largest and fastest growing Romani church in Yugoslavia.

(Keston Institute)


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