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Yugoslavia [Former] - Condemnation of the destruction of churches

03 December 1999

Joint letter to H.H. Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 3 December 1999.

The continuing tragedy facing the communities in Kosovo and Metohija remains a cause of serious preoccupation for the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches. In your recent letter, Your Holiness highlights a particularly disturbing aspect of the current situation.

The systematic violation of churches and holy places of the Serbian Orthodox Church is a painful manifestation of the division and hatreds which dominate this region even today. The desecration of these often ancient churches represents a loss not only for the Christian community, but for the cultural and spiritual heritage of the world, and is vigorously denounced by WCC and CEC.

Places of worship are often both the visible face and the living memory of the community. The recent history of former Yugoslavia, and most recently in Kosovo and Metohija, has been marked by a frenzy of destruction of communities and of cultures, including both Christian churches and Muslim mosques. The WCC and CEC, and the families of churches which they represent, remember with sadness all those who have fallen victims to the violence and evil in this region, and those who have been left homeless and orphaned as a result. The continuous persecution of the minority Serb, Roma and other communities in the region must come to an end if peace and security are to be established.

We appeal to the interim civilian and military structures responsible for public order in Kosovo and Metohija to ensure that every possible measure is taken to ensure the safety and tranquillity of all religious and civilian communities and monuments, and in particular the churches and monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church which are specifically targeted at this time. The cause of human rights which motivated the international intervention in this region will be weakened indeed if those which now have authority are unable to ensure the survival of minority communities and the protection of their religious and material patrimony.

The revival of hope in this region can only be founded on a renewal of stable human communities. As we approach the Feast of the Nativity of Christ our Lord, the 'Prince of Peace', we pray that healing and reconciliation can be brought to all peoples in this region, and that societies may once again be built on mutual tolerance and trust. May the churches and religious communities do all that is possible to contribute to the softening of hearts and opening of minds at this time.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Konrad Raiser                        Keith Clements
General Secretary                  General Secretary
World Council of Churches     Conference of European Churches