Kosovo's Peaceful Rugova

IN YOUR JULY-AUGUST 1999 issue both Glen Stassen ("Nonviolence in Time of War") and David Hartsough ("Creative Courage") point out the lost opportunity for governments, nongovernment agencies, and religious groups to support nonviolent direct action on behalf of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo beginning in the early 1990s. Unlike prominent activists Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma), Guatemalan native Rigoberta Menchu, and the exiled Dalai Lama of Tibet, all of whom are Nobel Peace Prize recipients with high international profiles and published biographies or interviews, Kosovo’s peaceful leader Ibrahim Rugova has not received press attention until recently.

Despite his profound effect on maintaining peace among Albanians after Milosevic’s suspension of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989, Rugova received only limited audiences in government circles. Rugova was apparently not invited to speak before congregations or at universities, religious or secular, which would have provided him with general recognition as the chosen leader of an autonomous Kosovo.

The misguided policy of believing (or hoping) that Milosevic would somehow provide a nonviolent solution led policymakers to ignore any realistic engagement with Rugova. Milosevic did not become evil only in the early months of 1999—his policy of persecution of Albanians persisted for 10 years before the NATO deployments. Christians, unable to justify inaction in the face of property destruction and ethnic cleansing, were forced to take sides on the impossible question of determining the Christian response to Serbian violence.

We must not speak of Kosovo’s suffering in the past tense. We must oppose the new forms of evil, such as revenge on the Serbs and attacks on refugees. Let us pray that our secular and religious leaders be guided by God as we take a constructive course of action. Churches can sponsor educational seminars by missionaries, medical teams, and local religious leaders; congregations can hold relief fund-raisers featuring guest speakers; relief agencies can be invited to speak before high school and university assemblies and at various religious events. It is not too late to engage in active pursuit of nonviolent solutions and to engage with Rugova and others in efforts for a peaceful reconstruction.

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