Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, who was elected president in 1999, died in a plane crash Thursday near the Bosnian city of Stolac.

Having studied theology in the United States, Trajkovski had been a Methodist lay pastor to a congregation of Roma (Gypsy) before returning to politics when Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991.

As a Protestant in a country divided between majority Orthodox and minority Muslims, Trajkovski worked to maintain peace and stability during the conflicts between Serbia and Kosovo. His leadership of a NATO peace deal has been credited with preventing a civil war.

By treating Muslims and Orthodox as equals, Trajkovski was often criticized for being too lenient with Muslim insurgents. However, Trajkovski's faith-inspired approach to government won him the respect of many throughout the world. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and European Commission chief Romano Prodi praised Trajkovski's leadership and lamented his death and what it would mean for the fragile country.

Christianity Todayprofiled Trajkovski in 2001. "To serve God," he told the magazine, "is to be with the people and to follow Jesus' steps." To read the full profile, click here.