Violence in Kosovo leading to destruction of churches

( [email protected] ) Mar 19, 2004 08:12 AM EST

KOSOVO - Alarming reports are pouring out of Kosovo as Muslim Albanians have gone on killing sprees in many cities, torching churches and homes along the way. Some of the Serbian Orthodox Church's most revered shrines have been burnt amid the upsurge of inter-ethnic violence that erupted in Kosovo on March 17 has left at least 22 people dead and several hundred wounded.

Bill Murray of the Religions Freedom Coalition says the situation is critical for Christians. "I have just received information that United Nations administrators have fled Kosovo," Murray says. "Virtually every church in Kosovo is in flames, and Christians are fleeing for their lives. In virtually every town, the Muslims have moved [into the Christian areas] and the United Nations' troops have been forced to withdraw." U.N. police have confirmed that dozens of Christians have been killed and more than 500 wounded by rioting Muslims.

At least 13 Christian churches are burning, and new fires are being reported, including one at the monastery of St. Michael the Archangel. The cities of Obilic and Pristina seem to be the hardest hit. Authorities are urging calm throughout Kosovo.