In a joint statement released on March 19, 2004, the leaders representing millions of Christians worldwide appealed for peace and prayer, and called upon churches and religious communities to “reject any attempt, from any quarter, to use religion as a motivating factor for conflict.”
The letter, signed by the general secretaries of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches, Rev. Dr. Samual Kobia and Rev. Dr. Keith Clements, respectively, strengthened the voice of the Serbian Orthodox Christians who have recently come under attack by Albanian Muslim factions.
The warfare, which claimed the lives of over 30 people, injured 500 and destroyed dozens of churches Kosovo, erupted on Tuesday upon the death of two young Albanian boys. Albanians believed Serbians drowned the two boys, and took to the streets with guns and torches, burning down even the houses of priests and elderly.
The letter, addressed to the Orthodox Patriarch of Serbia, not only express mutual grief and mourning for the deaths, but also calls for a strict end to the violence by severing all “desire for revenge.”
"We pray with those who are mourning for the victims of the violence" and with "those who have been forced to leave their homes or see them destroyed by hatred," the general secretaries state.
The violence is "affecting the life of thousands and bringing destruction to the cultural and spiritual heritage… it is not only inflicting immense suffering here and now, but threatens to create even more difficulties for the long-term peace of Kosovo and the region,” they continued.
While upholding the appeal of the Serbian patriarch for "respect to be paid to all religious and sacred buildings", and for "protection to be ensured for them by the authorities", the general secretaries said that they join the Serbian patriarch “in your prayers and your appeal for people to realize that, grief and anger notwithstanding, they will not give in to the desire for revenge which will only strengthen the cycle of violence and deny hope for the future.”
The following is the complete text of the letter as released by the World Council of Churches:
In the name of Jesus Christ, who is our peace, we greet you on behalf of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches.
The reports of outbreaks of violence in Kosovo, with loss of life and many injuries and the destruction of homes and sacred buildings, brings dismay to all who have worked, hoped and prayed for the building of peace and stability in Kosovo since the conflict of 1999. To see, once again, people being driven from their homes to join the thousands who have still not been able to return home, is shameful. As you are aware, in these past years we have followed closely the situation in Kosovo and, for example in the letter to Your Holiness from WCC and CEC of 16 August 2002, expressed our deep concern over the continuing vulnerability of the Serbian minority in Kosovo-Metohija. We are therefore grieved at this outbreak of conflict which not only is inflicting immense suffering here and now, but threatens to create even more difficulties for the long-term peace of Kosovo and the region.
With this new wave of violent intolerance and extremism, affecting the life of thousands and bringing destruction to cultural and spiritual heritage belonging to all people, it is of paramount importance that we as churches and religious communities raise our voice. We need to appeal to all parties to refrain from further violence in order not to threaten years of efforts for reconciliation. Especially, we must reject any attempt, from any quarter, to use religion as a motivating factor for conflict and a justification for violence.
We have been deeply moved to hear of the appeals for peace and prayer made by Your Holiness and the Holy Synod and, especially, by the efforts to protect the Mosque in Belgrade which came under attack in response to the events in Kosovo. With you, we appeal for respect to be paid to all religious and sacred buildings, whether churches, monasteries or mosques, and for protection to be ensured for them by the authorities responsible for law and order.
We pray with those who are mourning for the victims of the violence and those who have been forced to leave their homes or see them destroyed by hatred.
We join in your prayers and your appeal for people to realize that, grief and anger notwithstanding, they will not give in to the desire for revenge which will only strengthen the cycle of violence and deny hope for the future. May the concluding prayer of the Appeal of Holy Synod be heard throughout Kosovo, throughout the region and wherever violence threatens in our world today: "O Lord, help all, and also us and our enemies, as peace, freedom and justice are necessary for all, both for us and for all people and nations."
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia Rev. Dr Keith Clements
WCC General Secretary CEC General Secretary