Tuesday, March 23, 2004
As Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, we deplore the terrible and senseless outbreak of violence and intolerance witnessed this past week in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.
We have heard the pleas of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. We join them in praying for the victims who were murdered or forced to flee from their homes while 18,000 international peacekeepers watched this wanton violence against the minority Serbian population and the destruction of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the region – including UNESCO-protected sites.
More than 3,000 people have been left homeless, 28 persons killed, and many injured. Furthermore, 30 churches and monasteries were destroyed, bringing the number of churches destroyed in Kosovo over the past four years to approximately 145. In addition, numerous villages were torched and leveled to the ground.
Terrorizing civilian populations, like terrorist activity in other parts of the world, must be confronted openly and directly. Ethnic cleansing is wrong, no matter who is doing it. Such intolerance, and hatred cannot and must not be rewarded.
We call on the United Nations and responsible Western governments to intervene swiftly and forcefully to restore a safe and secure environment in Kosovo, to protect the rights and property of minorities, and to preserve the remaining centuries-old religious sites throughout the region.
†Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Orthodox Church in America
†Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America America and Canada
†Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
†Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos
Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
†Bishop ILIA of Philomelion