The Common Good
January-February 1999

A Cure for Kosovo?

by Rose Marie Berger | January-February 1999

Orthodox reformers forge path of peace.

When it comes to conversation about Kosovo and the actions of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, most of us are felled by an awful case of analysis paralysis and take to our emotional beds. The good news is there are peaceful options in Kosovo and we can help support them.

Leaders of the Kosovar resistance recently initiated dialogue with U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill to promote their growing nonviolent religious resistance movement in Kosovo. Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije and Momcilo Trajkovic, of the Serbian Democratic Resistance Movement, are asking that any further political agendas for Kosovo contain certain key elements, starting with the understanding that the Kosovo situation is not an ethnic conflict but one resulting from the continuous human rights abuses wreaked on Serbs and Albanians alike by the Milosevic regime. "The international community must not use the same ethnic principles for determining the future of Kosovo that Milosevic uses," said Trajkovic.

The proposal also states that Milosevic's government should be politically isolated and not allowed to represent Kosovo Serbs in any further negotiations; a plebiscite on Kosovo status must be organized in a way that includes all of Serbia; all Kosovo leaders must openly condemn the violence of both Serb forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army; the international community should endorse a resolution that would prevent military intervention from Albania as well as from Serbia, and do everything possible to help Kosovars stay or return to their homes, whether Serb or Albanian.

The two leaders stress that all actions on behalf of Kosovo must move toward the full freedom, equality, and respect of personal, civil, and national rights of all ethnic communities in the region. Bishop Artemije is drawing in the local Catholic bishops and Muslim religious leaders to build a representational religious peace team. If Trajkovic can establish a working relationship with Kosovar Albanian political leader Ibrahim Rugova (who modeled the Kosovo independence movement on Gandhian strategies and has a background in theological training), then a solid peace plan can develop.

All parties agree, however, that to stabilize the region Slobodan Milosevic must be dealt with. It was in Kosovo in 1989 that Milosevic made a name for himself when, as part of his ultra-nationalist Serb agenda, he put down the Albanian uprising by forcibly revoking Kosovo's independent status. Ten years later, after promoting genocide in Bosnia, Milosevic's troops massacred thousands of Kosovar Albanians and forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes in a seven-month "anti-terrorist" sweep. As hard as it is to believe, there are more-dangerous nationalist forces in Serbia than Milosevic. His greatest political threats are to the right of him, not the left. The international powers know this. The Serb people know this. He must be handled carefully.

The War Resisters League and others have proposed the political isolation of Milosevic by the international community, and that all parties completely stop negotiating with him. The United States has negotiated with Milosevic in the past to attain peace, and he ends up using it to promote his own ends. Other faith-based peace organizations advocate that the International War Crimes Tribunal arrest Milosevic immediately for crimes against humanity in the Bosnian war. NATO would then negotiate directly with the pro-democracy movement in Serbia, thereby legitimizing and strengthening it.

A question that remains relevant: What about air strikes? Since nearly all military bases in Serbia are in civilian areas, as is true in much of Europe, there is little possibility of "clean" strikes. Civilians will be hit. Additionally, damage happens even before missiles are launched. During the recent air strike threats, Milosevic cleared hospitals and sent home critically ill patients who died for lack of proper medical attention. All independent news stations and newspapers were forcibly closed or destroyed.

Pro-democracy reformers, both Serb and Albanian, agree that air strikes are a disaster for their resistance work. Milosevic uses the threat of bombings to introduce a stronger dictatorship. Next he is likely to shut down human rights, peace, and religious organizations, eliminating the last islands of opposition in Serbia.

For more information visit the cyber-monk, Father Sava, at Decani Monastery, www.decani.yunet.com.

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