World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150, route de Ferney PO Box 2100 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland E-mail: media

10 March 1998


Reacting to the "unfolding tragic events in Kosovo", a joint letter from the general secretaries of three church organizations - the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) - appeals to church leaders in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to do all they can to stop the violence and to ensure that the "identities and history" of all the ethnic and religious groups in the province are respected.

The text of the letter sent on 10 March to their member churches in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by Rev. Dr Keith Clements of CEC, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser of the WCC and Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko of the LWF follows:

"Dear Brothers in Christ,

We write to you on behalf of our respective church organizations to express our profound concern and solidarity with all those caught up in the unfolding tragic events in Kosovo.

Our organizations appeal to the leadership and members of the churches in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to do everything possible to contribute to a peaceful and negotiated solution to the civil violence in the province of Kosovo.

It is of utmost concern to Christians and churches everywhere that a repetition of the violent conflict experienced in Bosnia in recent years must be avoided. Everything must be done to overcome the confrontation and to avoid a further spread of this conflict to neighbouring countries.

In order for a just and lasting solution to be negotiated, all parties must refrain from acts of violence and intimidation. We therefore share the condemnation by His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church and his representatives of the use of police violence against unarmed student and civilian populations in Kosovo, and we denounce the grave violation of human rights witnessed in the region.

Furthermore, we recognize and share the concern that the identities and history of all ethnic and religious groups in the province be respected. We strongly support the efforts of people of all communities in Kosovo and elsewhere which seek a peaceful and negotiated solution to the present crisis, and which will allow a just and free coexistence for all. We join with the Patriarch in appealing that all peoples may live together as human beings according to Divine justice in this country.

We are urging the international ecumenical community to be prepared to offer any humanitarian and other assistance to the victims, the uprooted and those vulnerable groups most affected by the conflict, through ACT-Action by Churches Together, the emergency coordinating office based in WCC and LWF.

It is our hope and prayer that no effort will be spared to allow people to return again to a life of dignity and mutual respect."

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer, (+41.22) 791.61.52 (Office); 369.37.26 (Home)

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 330, 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.