Serbia and Montenegro: "Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties..."

Jasmina Tesanovic
The title above is an Italian feminist slogan, from a Milano rally, January 2006. Easter is not a religious feast anymore. This is Serbian Jihad, said a young man, a hip icon in the young generation of writers and musicians.
Only a few days ago, a new law on the church was passed in the Parliament, notwithstanding its outrageous piety and lack of public debate.
In this country, or what's left of it, where no law on church existed since 1945, this law spins the wheel of history past that year to centuries before. The Serbian church becomes a state within the state, a privileged entity out of reach of civil law.

Even honest priests and believers are scandalized by such fundamentalism. As somebody said: why do we need such a church law at all? It's enough to have an amendment in the constitution guaranteeing freedom of all religions. Like in the US -- but the problem is that we don’t even have a constitution yet.

The law is put there to guarantee the Serbian Orthodox Church a presence almost everywhere in Serbian daily life, including its employees, property, pensions, payments, and tax evasion. This while other citizens are still dreaming of establishing a civil society.

I am an atheist. I might even be a pagan, since my family background is in Southern Serbia. However, I grew up in Italy, so I well know what it is like when you live with priests everywhere, telling you what's right what's wrong, and having state power to do so, backed up by the Fascist deal that Mussolini made with the right winged Pope in 1929, il Concordato. It means: no divorce, no abortion, no sexual diversity... and so many other no's, out of blue, that one becomes a latent Catholic just trying to think one's way to a yes.

I don’t want a law on the church. I want a law on rock and roll and Hannah Arendt, for that's my spiritual homeland...

Good Friday: my daughter goes to buy some ham. The guy in the shop refuses to sell ham because on Good Friday one should fast. He tells her she is ignorant and primitive. He feels he should enlighten her and he is not even a priest.

At the restaurant the waiter takes it for granted that we eat no meat. When I order meat anyway, he looks at me as if I were a cannibal. My revenge is not to tip him. He probably spat in my plate anyway.

A mass is celebrated at midnight in the major church in Belgrade downtown, the biggest Orthodox church in the Balkans, with dusty flooring and Modernistic icons on the walls. Still unfinished, this vast pile is already known as the ugliest church in the Balkans. The president of Serbia is there privately with his family, the President of the parliament too, as well as national TV. The priest gives a sermon saying that we should stop performing "child killing" (meaning us women aborting), and that we should cherish the Serbian language (meaning to stop the European integration process). He also claims that Serbian young people are into drugs and, worse yet, unorthodox sects.

This speech rings a bell. Some years ago, Mira Markovic, the wife of Milosevic, the "Red Witch," was also obsessed with unorthodox thought and supposedly dangerous "sects." Of course, her blind faith was called Communism.

When I was a kid, Communism prohibited religion in this country as being itself a drug: "the opium of the people." My aunt took me secretly from my parents to the church when I was four. When I saw the priests the candles and heard the powerful lamenting choir, I had a fit of existential vertigo and burst into fit of tears.

This Easter, I feel just the same.