DECANI, KOSOVO — Despite the increasingly unstable and dangerous situation at national border crossings in the Balkans, Ellinwood, Kansas native J. Basil Dannebohm remains committed to visiting the region for a humanitarian relief visit.
For 20 days in February, Dannebohm and Father Nektarios Serfes of Boise, Idaho are traveling to Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Switzerland on behalf of the Decani Monastery Relief Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding Kosovo. Father Nektarios Serfes is the president of the Board of Directors and Dannebohm is the fund’s executive director.
According to Forum 18 News Service, on Dec. 12, in an attempt to enter Macedonia, the Archbishop of Ohrid, His Eminence, Jovan, was arrested and taken to prison. Dannebohm and Father Nektarios plan to visit Archbishop Jovan in the prison, meet with the United States Ambassador to Macedonia, and pray with Macedonian Christians.
On Dec. 13, "The Voice of Russia" reported that the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo prevented a convoy of Russian humanitarian supplies from entering northern Kosovo via the Jarinje checkpoint on the Serbian border.
On Jan. 7, Serbian President Boris Tadi visited Decani Monastery. During the trip his motorcade was attacked.
"Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ was not easy for the early Christian Church so we should have no expectation that the road will be paved with ease for us. The beloved people of the region are aware that we are planning this trip and are excited to see us. We will not let them down," said Serfes.
On behalf of the fund, the two have been working to raise $25,000 which will provide humanitarian aid to refugee centers, provide for the special needs of the elderly, pay electric bills, provide firewood, finance necessary medical and surgical procedures, help to purchase farm equipment and livestock and assist in the rebuilding of the seminary, monasteries and churches of the region.
Dannebohm and Serfes will arrive in Belgrade, Serbia on Jan. 31 where they will be greeted by His Holiness, Patriarch Irinej, "Pope" of the Serbian Orthodox Church. His Holiness leads some 11,000,000 Christians worldwide. The two will then cross the border into Kosovo where they will be hosted by His Grace Bishop Teodosije of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska - Prizren and the Orthodox Christian monks of Decani Monastery.
In October of 2011, the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija announced that Ss. Cyril and Methodius Serbian Orthodox Theological Seminary in Prizren, destroyed during the war, was being reconstructed and reopened. In celebration of the seminary’s reopening, Dannebohm (who is considered minor clergy in the Orthodox Church) will deliver a lecture to the students.
"I am honored to be addressing the seminarians at Ss. Cyril and Methodius. Moreover, there are no words to express how excited I am to visit the people of Kosovo and Macedonia," Dannebohm said.
"After the headlines cease and the cameras pull out, too often we forget that there are people who are left behind; they are living victims of war. They have no voice and very little resources. I am committed to being the voice of these forgotten people and working with them to rebuild their beloved Kosovo," said Dannebohm.
Following their visit to the Balkans, Dannebohm and Serfes will spend five days in Switzerland visiting with foreign diplomats and hierarchs who support the fund. The two will also spend a few days resting and praying in the Alps.
Donations to the Decani Monastery Relief Fund can be made by mail to: 2618 West Bannock Street, Boise, ID 83702 or online at http://www.thedecanifund.org/donate.