The State Department said in its 2020 report on religious freedom in the world that there was a rise in anti-Semitism in Serbia during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Jewish leaders reported a growth in anti-Semitism online during the pandemic… and anti-Semitic literature continued to be available in some bookstores,” the report said. It cited reports of incidents when unidentified perpetrators wrote anti-Semitic messages and Nazi graffiti on buildings in the northern city of Novi Sad which has a mixed ethnic and religious population. “According to an EU Fundamental Rights Agency report released in September, there were 30 anti-Semitic incidents in the country between 2009 and 2019, 11 of which resulted in criminal charges.,” the State Department report added.
It said that the Center for Security, Investigation, and Defense NGO issued warnings to the public against Jehovah’s Witnesses’ proselytizing during the COVID-19 pandemic and characterized their proselytizing activities as sinister.
“U.S. embassy officials encouraged parliament to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism. Embassy officials urged the government to continue restitution of Holocaust-era heirless and unclaimed Jewish property, promoted continued interfaith dialogue, and engaged with officials on the status of the government’s relationship with religious groups. Embassy officials continued to meet with representatives from a wide range of religious groups to discuss issues of religious freedom and tolerance, cooperation with the government, interaction between traditional and nontraditional religious groups, and property restitution,” the State Department report said.
It added that the leaders of the country’s two Islamic communities said the fact that, due to an internal dispute, neither had authority to deal with the government regarding the entire Muslim community created difficulty in coordinating property restitution claims and in selecting religious instructors for public school courses on religion.
According to the report, smaller, nontraditional groups, mainly Protestant Churches, said they encountered continued public distrust and misunderstanding and said some websites and traditional media and members of the public often branded their religious groups as “sects,” a term with a strong negative connotation in the Serbian language.