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WCC Central Committee meeting, 28 August - 5 September 2012

I was in prison and you came to visit me’. . .‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

(Matt. 25:36,40)

1.      His Beatitude, Archbishop Dr Jovan of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skopje of the Serbian Orthodox Church was arrested whilst crossing the border from Greece into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on 12 December 2011. Unfounded charges were brought against Archbishop Jovan, following which he was tried and sentenced in absentia, without the basic right to defence, to two and a half years imprisonment by the Court of Appeals in Veles. Initially detained unlawfully at Veles, he was transferred to more solitary confinement in Idrizovo Prison on 16 January 2012. This is his sixth consecutive detention, despite two acquittals by the Municipal Court in Veles.

2.      Amnesty International in 2005, predicated on the staged court cases and state persecution on religious grounds against Archbishop Jovan by the courts of FYROM, initiated ten years ago on the grounds of different religious beliefs, declared Archbishop Jovan a "prisoner of conscience".

3.      The persecution against the Archbishop now continues and has been extended to include the intimidation of members of the Archbishop’s family, the interrogation of hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of the Archdiocese of Ochrid with added threats of confiscation, whilst denying Archbishop Jovan the essential right to visitations and external communications.

4.      The World Council of Churches (WCC) has denounced the arrest and unlawful detention of His Beatitude Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skopje at the request of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The general secretary of WCC has written letters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and to the President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), expressing concern that Archbishop Jovan’s persecution over the past years constitutes a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, from 28 August to 5 September 2012, therefore:

A. Decries the unlawful imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan and the continued persecution of the members of the Archdiocese of Ochrid, and the members of the Archbishop’s family;

B. Calls upon the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to immediately release Archbishop Jovan and to cease and desist persecuting the Archdiocese of Ochrid;

C. Urges the authorities in FYROM to recognize the essential right to freedom of religion or belief, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

D. Requests the member churches of the WCC to join in prayer and solidarity with Archbishop Jovan by writing letters of protest to the relevant authorities;

E. Encourages the CCIA to organize a solidarity visit and continue to advocate for the release of Archbishop Jovan.