Priests shall not be above Constitution

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) strongly condemns statement of the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral Amfilohije that he expressed yesterday during service in the Cetinje monastery. This is only one in a series of similar statements with which Amfilohije continually spreads intolerance towards various social groups, and in this case, towards members of one nation.

In a civic society, burdened with numerous divisions, hard word has a multiple meaning. By insulting feelings of an entire nation, Amfilohije is damaging a multinational character of state of Montenegro. In a volatile region, under pressure from revisions of history and anti-fascism, priests have a special role to mainstream tolerance and peace among those who believe, but also to those who do not believe, and not hate and intolerance. Amfilohije’s rhetoric belongs to some other, past and tragic time, wherein such statements have led to conflicts.

In a time of severe crisis, when many citizens are in a precarious socio-economic position, when vulnerable groups are discriminated and subjected to torture of more stronger and more powerful ones, when often institutions close their eyes to obvious examples of discrimination, a clergyman must not offend feelings of any citizen.

The Constitution of Montenegro expressly prohibits inciting or encouraging hatred or intolerance on any grounds. The Constitution clearly defines the state’s secularism. However, it seems that the Constitution does not apply to Amfilohije, thus he continues to give more political rather than religious statements by undermining the civic spirit of the country in which he performs his service.

As a reminder, the European Committee Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its report on Montenegro for period of 2012-2017 clearly emphasizes the need to find manners to ensure protection from statements of priests. It is obligation of the Government to prevent hate speech from high ecclesiastical officials, thus fighting racism and intolerance, as this report highlights.

The CCE remains faithful to principles of a civic society in which everyone, regardless of nationality, gender, race, sexual orientation and social status must enjoy the same rights. This means that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, but also to protection of misuse of freedom of speech.

Damir NIKOČEVIĆ, Development Coordinator