Thousands Of Montenegrins Protest Government Plan To Amend Controversial Religion Law.

PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Several thousand people in Montenegro have protested the new government’s plan to amend a controversial law on religion.

Protesters chanted “Treason” and “This Is Not Serbia” as they gathered on December 28 outside the parliament building in the capital Podgorica, where lawmakers planned to discuss the proposed changes.

Under Montenegro's new religion law, adopted in January, religious communities must prove property ownership from before 1918.

That is the year when predominantly Orthodox Christian Montenegro joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes -- and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was subsumed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, losing all of its property in the process.

The Serbian Orthodox Church, its supporters, and pro-Serbian parties fear the law will enable the Montenegrin government to impound church property, though officials deny they intend to.

But the new government -- a coalition comprised of pro-Serb parties that is closely aligned with the Serbian Orthodox Church -- has proposed rewriting the law to ensure the properties stay in the hands of the church, which is based in neighboring Serbia.

Serbia and Montenegro were part of a federation until 2006, when Montenegro declared its independence.

Montenegro is the newest member of NATO and aspires to join the European Union.

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