Whereas the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) is committed to religious freedom, filial love, tolerance, and respect for the religious and cultural heritage and property of all faiths and peoples;
Whereas SCOBA represents over 6 million Orthodox Christians of diverse ethnic backgrounds in the United States of America and Canada;
Whereas SCOBA is grieved by the growing incidence of violence throughout the world against holy sites sacred to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other faiths;
Whereas the protection of religious shrines and cultural heritage property against acts of violence, intolerance and eradication is the responsibility of every civilized society, as confirmed by U.N. Resolutions A/RES/56/157 and E/CN4/RES2002/40, et al.
Whereas the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, affirm the right of everyone to manifest their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance;
Whereas the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, in force since 1956, prohibits theft, pillage, vandalism, or reprisals against cultural property during periods of armed conflict, and requires governing authorities to take measures to protect such property;
Whereas UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor on May 5, 1999 called for those involved in the Kosovo conflict to "respect the museums, archives, libraries, religious and educational institutions, as well as monuments and sites that are evidence of the civilization and history of the region";
Whereas SCOBA and all Orthodox Christian faithful throughout the world are deeply grieved over the continuation of acts of vandalism, pillage and violent destruction that have damaged or destroyed over 120 Orthodox Christian churches, monasteries, and shrines, as well as the desecration of numerous Orthodox Christian graves, since the war in Kosovo ended in June 1999;
Whereas the leadership of the World Council of Churches and of the Conference of European Churches on August 16, 2002 expressed "profound concern at the continued violence facing members of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its cultural and spiritual property in Kosovo", and;
Whereas Reno Harnish, Chief of Mission of the US Office in Pristina condemned the recent violence in Kosovo on November 18, 2002, stating: "Any attacks on religious sites of any faith are attacks on the very heart and soul of society and should be denounced in the strongest possible terms by all political and religious leaders."
Therefore, be it resolved that the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA):
1. Deeply deplores the most recent violent attacks on the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren in Kosovo and Metohija on November 16 and 17, 2002, which caused extensive damage to the Church of Serbian Saints in Djurakovac and totally destroyed the Church of Saint Basil of Ostrog the Miracle Worker in Ljubovo;
2. Condemns all acts of vandalism, pillage and violent destruction of religious and cultural heritage sites sacred to Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jews or any other religious group in Kosovo;
3. Joins with the United Nations, the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the international community in calling for respect, tolerance and reconciliation among all religious and ethnic communities in Kosovo;
4. Urgently requests the United Nations authorities and NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo to strengthen measures to protect all vulnerable religious property and shrines in Kosovo, and not only those of historical importance, and;
5. Urges the international community, in consultation with the affected religious communities, to support the restoration and reconstruction of all religious and cultural heritage property in Kosovo deliberately vandalized, pillaged, damaged or destroyed by acts of violence.
By Albert H. Lee