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Yugoslavia [Former] - Message to the Conference on Peace and Tolerance in Kosovo

16 March 1999

Conveyed to the conference held in Vienna, 16-18 March 1999.

To the distinguished participants in the First Summit of Kosovo Religious Leaders,

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has closely monitored the civil conflict in Kosovo over recent months, and welcomes all attempts to seek a just and peaceful settlement to the crisis in the region. The WCC supports the statements and actions of the churches and religious communities that seek to promote a lasting peace, including the present summit of Kosovo religious leaders of the Serbian Orthodox, Catholic and Islamic communities.

As churches and religious leaders in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and elsewhere have said from the beginning of this conflict, violence cannot bring peace. The use of force and intimidation cannot secure a lasting and just solution to this complex and painful conflict. The only viable future for the region lies in a negotiated settlement based on the establishment of full democracy and respect for the human rights of all communities, majority and minority, and the due recognition of the need for tolerance and peaceful co-existence. The WCC affirms the principle that the representatives of all national communities in Kosovo should be involved in any political settlement, if this is to be just and durable.

The Council condemns in the strongest terms the use of violence in any form by the conflicting parties. The efforts by the international and regional organizations and mechanisms to actively promote a settlement to the conflict, in particular the Rambouillet peace process, and all supportive measures short of military force to achieve this end, are commendable and need to be encouraged. The WCC welcomes the active involvement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council. The WCC emphasizes the necessity for the international institutions to ensure that any future political settlement enhances stability in the region and builds confidence among all its peoples.

The Council remains greatly concerned about the humanitarian disaster created by the armed conflict which has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. The WCC therefore urges all parties, and especially the authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to honour their commitments to maintain and uphold the right to access by international humanitarian organizations to the affected region, and to facilitate the safe return of all those displaced by the fighting. The WCC, through its emergency office ACT-Action by Churches Together, will continue to provide assistance to the victims of the humanitarian crisis, regardless of their origin.

The WCC expresses its profound solidarity with all the peoples of Kosovo, and joins the common prayer of the faithful of all religious communities that justice and peace may be restored in this land.

                                                                                                                                              Konrad Raiser
                                                                                                                                              General Secretary