German French
Dear Reader,

Yesterday members of NATO launched a military offensive against the Serbian army in an attempt to force President Slobodan Milosovic to sign the Rambouillet peace agreement. Yet we know that peace cannot forced through the use of military violence. This military attack is intended to stop the severe human rights offenses still occurring in a brutal war against civilians in Kosovo, even though the NATO offensive was not mandated by the United Nations and thus is itself a violation of international human rights. We know that God does not view war as a legitimate way in which to resolve violent conflicts. Legitimizing military intervention as having no other choice shows that the efforts at obtaining a non-military resolution of the tragedy in Kosovo were too few and came too late. We all must assume responsibility for this.

However, it is important to recognize the efforts, particularly from the churches, at avoiding further fighting and ending the violence. In a joint declaration on March 18 in Vienna, representatives from the Catholic, Islamic and Orthodox communities in Kosovo issued a call for continued dialogue and negotiation instead of a military solution: The war in Kosovo is not a war of religions. We know too well our troubled and tragic history, but the future is within our power to influence and direct. All ethnic and religious communities in Kosovo must be allowed to live, worship and work in the knowledge that their basic human and religious rights will not be violated and their houses of worship and cultural and linguistic heritage will be protected.

In a declaration on March 23, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) referred to the efforts of Serbian Orthodox Church leaders in Kosovo who have been calling the political leaders of Serbia to take the way of dialogue, democratization and the observance of human rights for people of all ethnic communities and religious loyalties .

We must also not forget the presence of international humanitarian and peace organizations and the many volunteers from Church & Peace member organizations, Pax Christi, IFOR and other groups who have been working for many years in all parts of the former Yugoslavia for reconciliation and the peaceful coexistence of all ethnic and religious communities. Many of these organizations were forced to evacuate their workers due to the expected NATO offensive. Some - for example Bread of Life in Belgrade - are attempting to continue their humanitarian assistance in Kosovo. The withdrawal of humanitarian workers will only worsen the already desperate situation of those in Kosovo and the innumerable refugees, leaving them at the mercy of armed combatants.

The question remains what we can do about the NATO military offensive and the situation in Kosovo. A newsletter from Bread of Life on March 10 indicates the actions Christians are taking in Belgrade: In response to the crisis in Kosovo the Trinity Pentecostal Churches in Belgrade are inviting Christians to pray and fast with them each Tuesday. Protestant churches are organizing around-the-clock prayer vigils. Christians here pray that the striving for political power will be replaced by a passion for peace, justice and preservation of human life, God s wonderful creation.

Let us pray for all people endangered by the present situation, for those in positions of power and those who are suffering. Let us also begin now to work at all levels to develop and strengthen civilian peacemaking teams so that we have an effective non-military alternative to implement in crisis situations in the future.
Christian Hohmann
25 March 1999