Friday, June 16, 2000
One year ago NATO was engaged in military action in the Balkans. After
some two months of bombing by United States and other NATO forces,
Yugoslavia withdrew its military forces from Kosovo, and hundreds of
thousands of Kosovar Albanians who fled to Albania, Macedonia, and
Montenegro returned to Kosovo.
The self-defined mandate and mission from NATO was humanitarian. Although many both in the U.S. and Europe questioned the NATO policy of bombing, all agree that the safety of every community and ethnic group in Kosovo – Albanians, Gypsies, Serbs, and others – should and must be protected by the international forces in Kosovo.
The tragic record of the past months shows that the Serbs and other non-Albanians of Kosovo have become the targets of violence, have been forced to leave their homes and have been prevented from returning to their homes. There have been numerous threats, assaults, and murders. Many Serbs and other non-Albanians have been kidnapped and their whereabouts remain unknown. The Serbs and other non-Albanians are fleeing from Kosovo, and no provision is made for their return. With the destruction of churches and historical monuments, the cultural presence of non-Albanians is being erased. This lawlessness is taking place in a Kosovo administered by the United Nations and protected by an international force, which has NATO at its core. The presence of the international force and the UN administration has not succeeded in creating and maintaining an environment of peace, non-violence, and safety for all.
In the midst of the continuing violence and cruelty, the religious leaders in Kosovo – Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim – have formed an inter-religious council and have raised their voices against violence and intolerance.
As members of the SCOBA, we strongly affirm the courageous actions of Bishop Artemije, the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Bishop of Raska and Prizren, and the religious leadership of the Roman Catholic and Muslim communities in Kosovo. We join them in condemning violence and intolerance and acts of retribution. We appeal to the UN, its administration in Kosovo, and the whole international community not to allow the cycle of violence and retribution to continue in Kosovo.