In the face of ceaseless killing and mounting political pressure, one of the smallest evangelical communities in the world is struggling to stay true to its values of nonviolence and interethnic fellowship while simultaneously responding to a growing interest in the gospel.
"I am an Albanian, and I am hoping for an independent Kosovo," says Ranko P., an emerging evangelical leader in the ethnically Albanian but politically Serbian province of Kosovo at the heart of the Balkans.
"There is no alternative to independence," he adds firmly. "But as a Christian I renounce violence, so I do not support the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)."
Reluctantly, Ranko admits that, at times, he feels hatred toward the Serbs. "But Jesus has kept me from going to the mountains," he says, using an old idiom that connotes "joining the rebels," in this case the KLA, the Albanian guerrillas engaging the Serbian government forces in the latest of the wars fragmenting and devastating the former Yugoslavia.
Kosovo-Albanian evangelicals take a clear stand for peace and reconciliation. Soon after the outbreak of war in March 1998, they appealed to the international church to pray for "dialogue and understanding between the peoples in Yugoslavia." But Ranko admits that the political pressures make it increasingly difficult for Christians to live according to their values. "We want to be 100 percent Christians, and 100 percent Albanians, but it is hard to keep the balance," he explains. "If we emphasize our Albanian identity, we are rebels to the ruling Serbs. If we stress the unity of all believers, including the unity with Serbian Christians, we are traitors to the KLA." Ranko says, "We take our people to Bible training in Serbia. If Serbian believers come ...1