World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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13 June 2001

"Peace is too important to be left only to the politicians..."
Round table meeting with the religious communities of the FYR of Macedonia
at Morges, Switzerland

"Peace is too important to be left only to the politicians... we firmly believe that it is the responsibility of religious communities to speak and work for peace... religious communities must be used as sources of healing and reconciliation," stated participants at a gathering of religious leaders representing five religious communities from the FYR of Macedonia.

Meeting in Morges, Switzerland, 11-13 June 2001, the representatives of the main churches and religious communities of the FYR of Macedonia have agreed to unite their efforts to promote peace and overcome the tensions and violence that are currently dividing Macedonian society. This first interreligious round table meeting with religious communities of the FYR of Macedonia was convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in cooperation with the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and with the assistance of the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation (MCIC).

The round table meeting involved senior representatives of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Union of Macedonia, the Catholic Church of Macedonia, the United Methodist Church in Macedonia and the Jewish Community in Macedonia. The meeting was chaired by Archbishop Anastasios, head of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania.

In their discussions, the 19 religious leaders condemned all forms of violence, and appealed to all parties to end the conflict and prevent any further aggravation of the situation. They committed their own communities to find ways of promoting understanding and tolerance, and identified a number of practical measures to restore confidence and promote reconciliation among Macedonia's ethnic communities. The religious leaders also forcefully condemned attacks on religious buildings and representatives, and appealed to national and international political authorities to find long-term and sustainable solutions for the south-east European region.

Since early 2001, there has been an escalation of armed conflict in the FYR of Macedonia with ethnic Albanian rebels launching attacks on Macedonian government forces and demanding greater rights for the country's ethnic Albanian minority. "The confrontation between the Macedonian military and the ethnic Albanian rebels has led to widespread displacement of civilians and the risk of a humanitarian crisis in some parts of the country," explains WCC Europe secretary, Alexander Belopopsky.

"The outbreaks of violence in the FYR of Macedonia since March and April 2001 raise the risk of broader inter-ethnic and inter-communal violence in the country, and threaten the multicultural character of the society. The WCC and CEC strongly believe that churches and religious communities have a unique and valuable role as a source of peace. In the framework of the international Decade to Overcome Violence, and the ecumenical South-East Europe Partnership, the WCC and CEC place peace-building and reconciliation at the centre of their concerns and actions, and seek to promote the active involvement of all religious communities in promoting peace, tolerance and the non-violent resolution of conflict," says Belopopsky.

Photos of the round table meeting in Morges are available at Photo Oikoumene

Click here to the joint statement from the participants of the round table.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.