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Montenegro amends allegedly anti-Serbian law on freedom of religion amid protests
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Montenegro amends allegedly anti-Serbian law on freedom of religion amid protests

The Parliament of Montenegro Tuesday amended parts of the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities that related to property and were allegedly anti-Serbian. The option of nationalizing church property has now been removed.

Thousands of Montenegro nationals had taken to the streets of the capital Podgorica in protest to the amendments, accusing lawmakers of treason with chants like, “this is not Serbia,” while also calling the lawmakers “Serbian mercenaries.”

Montenegro passed the controversial law in December 2019. It required that the Serbian Orthodox Church produce evidence of church property ownership prior to 1918, the year that Montenegro lost its independence before regaining it in 2006. The law sparked tensions between Montenegro and Serbia, with ethnic Serbs fearing it would strip the church of some of its religious sites.

In response, the Serbian Orthodox community rallied for months against the government that passed the law. The community backed a new government led by Zdravko Krivokapić in the 2020 election. Krivokapić’s government sought to amend the law.

Following the adoption of the amendments, Krivokapić tweeted, “Now all religious communities, without exception, are equal before the law.”

While working to amend the law, the new government pledged to maintain Montenegro’s independence from Serbia. Despite this pledge, many Montenegro nationals fear the amendments could increase Serbian influence in Montenegro.