Belgrade, April 24, 2006
Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
(Italian feminist slogan, 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
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
fundamentalism. As somebody said: why do we need such
a church law at all? It's enough to have an amendment
constitution guaranteeing freedom of all religions.
Like in the US — but the problem is that we don't
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
background is in Southern Serbia. However, I grew up
Italy, so I well know what it is like when you live
priests everywhere, telling you what's right what's
wrong, and having state power to do so, backed up by
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
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
and roll and Hannah Arendt, for that's my spiritual
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
we eat no meat. When I order meat anyway, he looks at
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
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
This Easter, I feel just the same.
(photos: Bruce Sterling)
– – – – –
(Images: courtesy Jasmina Tesanovic)
Previous essays by Jasmina Tesanovic on BoingBoing:
– Floods and Bombs
Scorpions Trial, April 13
– The Muslim Women
– Belgrade: New Normality
– Serbia: An Underworld Journey
– Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
– Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
– Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
– The Long Goodbye
– Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
– Slobodan Milosevic Died
– Milosevic Funeral
– Link to previous posts about Jasmina's work.