Father Sava Janjic is one of the very few advocates of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence in Kosovo. During the NATO bombings, which began a year ago on March 23, 1999, Sava became world-famous as the "cyber-monk," thanks to his Internet site on which he not only informed the cyber-community world-wide about what was happening in Kosovo but also pleaded with all sides in the conflict to negotiate a solution.Kosovo's famous monastery at Decani, where he then lived, gave shelter, food and clothing to many ethnic Albanian refugees forced to flee the violence of Serbian soldiers and paramilitaries, setting an example for others in the midst of atrocities.But very few followed that example, however, and Sava is pessimistic about the future.He told Ecumenical News International (ENI), during a recent visit by journalists to Kosovo arranged by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, that for Kosovo's Serbian citizens the situation was worse today than immediately after the arrival of the KFOR, the international peace-keeping force, last year.Sava was speaking to ENI at the monastery where he now lives, in Grajinica, 15 kilometers from Pristina, Kosovo's main city.Following KFOR's arrival in Kosovo at the end of 11 weeks of intensive bombing by NATO forces, ethnic Albanians, angry at the destruction and carnage inflicted on them, forced tens of thousands of Serbs out of the province.Sava, who has spoken of the need by Serbs here to recognize the injustices perpetrated against the ethnic Albanians, complained to ENI that "the presence of 50,000 KFOR soldiers from the best armies in the world, as well as several dozen human rights non-governmental organizations, have not been able to protect us."With the exception of the town of Metrovica and the northern part of Kosovo bordering on Serbia, the Serbs remaining in Kosovo are confined to a few, all-Serbian villages across the region. The southern city of Prizren, for example, used to be home to 10 000 Serbs. Now it has only 80, and half of them have taken refuge in the town's Orthodox seminary. There they live like prisoners, guarded for their own protection by KFOR guards 24 hours a day, surrounded by barbed wire and sandbags, and escorted by at least two heavily armed soldiers whenever they go shopping."We want to remain because we live in the hope of a better future," Father Miron, who is in charge of the Prizren seminary, told ENI. "Man has to hope in order to survive, but most people here are very scared."All of Kosovo's Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and other church buildings have similar protection, as do the few Serbs living outside the all-Serbian enclaves."More than 80 Serb churches and monasteries have been destroyed or desecrated since the arrival of KFOR," Sava said. "From the pattern of destruction, we can see that it is neither revenge nor done for religious reasons. It is a systematic destruction of everything non-Albanian in Kosovo, carried out by extremists from Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA."Sava, who regularly receives death threats from Serb extremists opposed to his moderate views, believes that the war broke out because there was no contact between Serbs and Albanians. "One side does not understand the sufferings of the other, they do not hear the wishes for dialogue," he told ENI. "Spiritually speaking, we are well aware of what has to be done, but we need support from the outside to make the first, precious contacts."Gradually, that contact is beginning. On 8 February Kosovo's religious leaders—Muslims, Serbian Orthodox, and clergy from the small Roman Catholic community—issued a "Statement of Shared Moral Commitment," condemning all violence and calling for the shared moral values of the three religious communities here to "serve as an authentic basis for mutual esteem, co-operation and free common living in the entire territory of Kosovo."The statement, however, stopped short of asking for forgiveness for past wrongs and urging reconciliation. Instead it stated that "we call on all people of good will to take responsibility for their own acts."Admission of guilt—or rather failure to do so—is perhaps one of the main stumbling blocks on the road to peace and reconciliation. The majority Muslim community wants the Serbian Orthodox Church to take a bold step forward, to repent the crimes committed by Serbs and to ask for forgiveness on their behalf. The Orthodox Church claims it has already done so on many occasions and says that it is now up to the Islamic leaders to do more to curb Albanian extremism and help to create a political climate to allow civilian Serbs who fled to return.However, it is likely to take years to overcome the mutual distrust. KFOR officials have said that the international force will have to stay here for at least another five years. Some observers in Kosovo believe the figure might as well be 50 years.Copyright © 2000 Ecumenical News International. Used with permission.
Sava Janjic's site,
Kosovo: Land of the Living Past, offers news, history, and information about the church in Kosovo.Coverage of the Kosovo conflict in Christianity Today and ChrisitanityToday.com includes:The Case for Compassion in Serbia | A year after NATO bombing, Yugoslav Christians discover unity in caring for the poor (Mar. 7, 2000)
Orthodox Condemn Milosevic (Oct. 4, 1999)
Evangelicals Resent Abandonment (July 12, 1999)
Churches Reach Out to Refugees (June 14, 1999)
Doing Church Amidst Bombs and Bullets | Balkan evangelicals feel strain of ethnic cleansing (May 24, 1999)
Bridging Kosovo's Deep Divisions | A tiny evangelical minority has a vision for how to overcome the explosive mix of religion and nationalism (Feb. 8, 1999)See also Books & Culture's January/February 1999 cover story, "
The Dead Zone | Pursuing the truth about genocide in the killing fields of Bosnia and Kosovo."
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