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


30 August 1999


"It is difficult to spell out the meaning of the word reconciliation in Kosovo at the present time." Keith Clements, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) was one of the panelists in the Padare on the Kosovo crisis and the role of the churches in conflict situations.

The second day of the meeting (28 August) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, was a day of "Padare" - an African style of discussion in groups that was used for the first time at the WCC assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998. Clements continued, "Reconstruction will take a long time, but efforts for reconciliation between the ethnic groups will take even longer." Now that the military bombardment had ended, he said, the churches' task in Kosovo was to work quietly out of the limelight to help heal relations between the ethnic groups.

The war in Kosovo was not a war of religion - on this Dr Vladan Peresic, a lay member of the Serbian Orthodox Church of Yugoslavia and Archbishop Anastasios, head of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania, were agreed. Albanians and Serbs alike had been victims of the war, they said.

Perisic called on the WCC to oppose the global condemnation of the Serbian people by western media and to help ensure that Serbs too could live in safety in Kosovo. The concern of the Serbian Orthodox Church was to stand by all the population groups in Kosovo on the road to peaceful coexistence.

Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania described the immense demands placed upon his church by the Kosovo crisis. After a ban of several decades on all church activities and eight years of rebuilding, caring for several hundred thousand refugees in camps and families had been a Herculean task that could only be managed with financial and practical help from the church's ecumenical partners. "Religion is the means for healing the wounds, the remedy against the widespread hatred, we must not allow it to be used as a means of division!" Anastasios mentioned developments in South Africa as an example for overcoming the "special form" of apartheid that prevailed in Kosovo. In contrast to South Africa, however, the issue here was not only reconciliation between Christians; Muslims too had to have their advocates. The core of the gospel, he said, was the defence of all those who suffer.

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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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.