World Council of Churches Office of Communication|
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INTERNATIONAL CHURCH BODIES WELCOME END TO KOSOVO WAR
cf. WCC Press Update of 27 May 1999
International church bodies with headquarters in Geneva today welcomed the Kosovo peace agreement endorsed by the UN Security Council yesterday. "We especially welcome the agreement of the parties to return to the framework of the Charter of the United Nations in pursuit of a lasting settlement of this dispute, believing that it is only in this context that peace and harmonious relations among the peoples of Yugoslavia and in the wider Balkans region can be appropriately and effectively pursued," says the text of a joint statement by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). The statement calls on churches, especially in Europe and North America, to respond "actively and generously" to the challenge of reconstruction, refugee repatriation and reconciliation which must now begin.
The text of the statement follows:
"Churches, Christians and people of other faiths around the world have worked and prayed for an end to the terror of ethnic cleansing, and to the destruction inflicted on Kosovo and Serbia by eleven weeks of NATO bombing. They have contributed aid and stood in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and others who have been forced to flee Kosovo and other parts of Yugoslavia. We thank God that the parties have finally reached an agreement to bring an end to the conflict, and for the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and all others who have worked so tirelessly to achieve this result.
We welcome especially the agreement of the parties to return to the framework of the Charter of the United Nations in pursuit of a lasting settlement of this dispute, believing that it is only in this context that peace and harmonious relations among the peoples of Yugoslavia and in the wider Balkans region can be appropriately and effectively pursued. We welcome and affirm the reiteration by the Security Council that a lasting solution must be sought which respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We also strongly support the affirmation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that any durable solution to this crisis must be built on the solid foundation of respect for human rights.
Reconstruction in Kosovo is a central task and a prerequisite for the return of refugees, but the repair of damage done in Serbia and the removal of punitive economic constraints are also essential to the establishment of peace, to alleviating the suffering of the people, and to reconciliation in the region. The delegation sent two weeks ago to Albania and FYR Macedonia by the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches underscored the fact that the impact of the war extends far beyond Yugoslavia’s borders. The international community must give priority to rebuilding infrastructure, homes and economies throughout Yugoslavia, and take a comprehensive, regional approach to reconstruction and reconciliation in order to create conditions for economic and political stability, and peace throughout Southeast Europe.
All those who have been internally displaced or expelled from Kosovo must be allowed to return to their homes in safety. At the same time, the international principles with respect to the protection of refugees hold that no one should be forced to return against their will so long as there is a well-founded fear of persecution or violation of their human rights. The principle of reuniting separated families must also be fully respected both in Kosovo and in the diaspora. As refugees return, the local ethnic Serb communities in Kosovo must be protected from reprisals and violations of their human rights.
The Security Council has clearly indicated that the task of establishing and building the peace on the ground and of restoring an effective civilian administration has both military and civilian components. These roles should not be confused. Those who will assume military responsibilities for security must exercise the greatest possible restraint with respect to the use of armed force. Responsibility for the reestablishment of civil administration and an effective civilian police force should be the exclusive responsibility of the civilian component in which the OSCE should have a leading role. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should be given clear responsibility and support for monitoring during the implementation phase of the peace accord and for the establishment of effective local and national human rights mechanisms.
The churches will have a key role to play in the enormous task of reconstruction, refugee repatriation and reconciliation which must begin immediately. We call upon the churches, especially those of Europe and North America, to respond actively and generously to this challenge, in Kosovo and the other Yugoslav Republics, in Albania and FYR Macedonia, and among refugees who have sought asylum in their own countries.
The agreement reached will, we pray, stop the war; but a just and lasting peace will require a long-term, intensive commitment by the international community, the national government, and the churches to the promotion of reconciliation.
May God bless and guide the way to such a peace for all those who have suffered so much before and during this war."
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, 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.