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The Churches and the Kosovo Crisis
Background Information

Chronology of political events and ecumenical actions
January 1998 to December 1999

Political events

February-March. Violent confrontations between Yugoslav army, Serb police and Kosovar Albanian separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the Drenica region lead to 2,000 deaths and the displacement of 250,000 people.

22 March. Kosovar Albanians re-elect Ibrahim Rugova as their unofficial president.

7 April. Serbian Parliament rejects proposed referendum on international participation in resolution of crisis.

April-August. Continued confrontations in Kosovo between Yugoslav army, Serb police and Kosovar Albanian separatists, despite various attempts at international mediation and increased NATO manoeuvres.

15 May. Meeting between Yugoslav President Milosevic and Kosovar Albanian leader Rugova, with involvement of American mediator Holbrooke.

22 September. UN Security Council demands cease-fire, withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from province and opening of direct negotiations among parties.

13 October. Agreement in Belgrade between President Milosevic and Richard Holbrooke on withdrawal of Yugoslav forces, the cessation of hostilities and the deployment of 2,000 unarmed OSCE ‘verifiers'. On 16 October the agreement is rejected by the KLA.

26 October. Withdrawal of 10,000 Serbian police from Kosovo. NATO suspends threat of air raids.

16 November. Rugova refuses to renew direct negotiations with the Belgrade authorities.

Ecumenical actions

10 March. WCC / CEC / LWF issue open letter to Yugoslav churches appealing that everything be done to find peaceful and negotiated solution with respect for identities and history of all peoples in Kosovo.

21 July. WCC / LWF Action by Churches Together emergency office issues appeal for assistance for Kosovo refugees and displaced people with a target of US $6.5 million.

31 July-5 August. CEC in cooperation with WCC sends fact-finding mission to Kosovo and Belgrade to meet with Albanian and Serbian political and religious leaders. Report appeals for international support for ‘prophetic voices' in Serbian Church calling for reconciliation.

14 October. WCC statement on situation in Kosovo welcomes provisional agreement and deployment of OSCE verification mission.

November. WCC co-funds research and publication of a major report of the Minority Rights Group International: Minorities in Southeast Europe: Inclusion and Exclusion.

Political events

6 February. The international Contact Group gathers representatives of Belgrade authorities and of the principal Kosovar Albanian parties, including the KLA, in Rambouillet (France). The KLA refuses anything short of full independence for Kosovo, while the Yugoslav authorities refuse the deployment of NATO forces in the province.

19 March. The peace negotiations reopen in Paris. The KLA accepts proposals but Belgrade refuses unrestricted NATO deployment in Kosovo.

23 March. NATO commences widespread bombing campaign throughout the territory of Yugoslavia. Over 2,000 civilians are killed and massive damage is inflicted to Yugoslav military and civilian infrastructure.

March-May. Over 700,000 Kosovar Albanians are forced to flee the province into neighbouring Albania and FRY of Macedonia. Confrontation between Yugoslav forces and KLA continues. UN issues reports of massive human rights violations by Yugoslav and Serb forces in the province.

June 9. Yugoslavia agrees to a full military withdrawal from Kosovo, paving the way for an end to NATO's 78-day bombing campaign. Many Serbs leave the province.

June 10. NATO ends its 11-week bombing campaign against Yugoslavia following the start of the Serb withdrawal from Kosovo.

30 June. Bernard Kouchner appointed as UN administrator in Kosovo.

23 July. The discovery at Gracko of fourteen massacred Kosovar Serbs highlights the persecution of the remaining minorities in the province.

21 September. The KLA is demilitarized and transformed into the ‘Kosovo Protection Corps’.

6 December. The OSCE publishes two exhaustive reports on the human rights situation in Kosovo. The analysis reveals that ‘suffering in Kosovo in the period monitored by the OSCE-KVM was overwhelmingly Kosovo Albanian suffering, at the hands of the Yugoslav and Serbian state military and security apparatus’. The first report emphasizes that ‘summary and arbitrary killing became a generalized phenomenon throughout Kosovo with the beginning of the NATO air campaign against the FRY on the night of 24-25 March. Up to that point, the attentions of the Yugoslav and Serbian military and security forces had been generally directed towards communities in Kosovo in areas that were on UCK transit routes or where there were UCK bases. (...) After 24 March however the general pattern changed and included areas that had previously been relatively quiet’.

Sources: Le Monde Diplomatique, WCC

Ecumenical actions

15 March. WCC / LWF Action by Churches Together (ACT) emergency office issues appeal for assistance for Kosovo refugees and assistance throughout Balkans region. Total ecumenical contributions for relief through ACT partners is almost US$ 19 million.

17 March. WCC issues message to the inter-religious peace and tolerance conference in Vienna, appealing for a negotiated political solution to the crisis, involving all national communities in Kosovo.

25 March. WCC issues pastoral letter to member churches in Yugoslavia expressing profound emotion at start of NATO intervention, andexpressing solidarity and support. Close contact is maintained with church leaders in the region.

29 March. WCC, CEC, LWF and WARC appeal to UN Secretary-General for moratorium on NATO intervention, and renewal of political process under auspices of UN.

31 March. Ecumenical bodies and Christian World Communions issue joint Easter appeal for peace and cessation of armed conflicts.

15 April. WCC, LWF, CEC and WARC issue joint statement on protection of humanitarian principles and fundamental rights in Kosovo refugee response, following criticism of roles of NATO and international aid agencies in relief efforts.

16-18 April. WCC / CEC / LWF ecumenical delegation visits churches in Yugoslavia during NATO bombing campaign, and issues report on ‘Yugoslavia's double tragedy' appealing for an end to the NATO campaign.

11 May. Church organizations support worldwide day of prayer and reconciliation in the Balkans.

18-25 May. Ecumenical delegation visits churches and partners in FYR Macedonia and in Albania, and issues comprehensive report highlighting the efforts of local churches and related organizations in peace and relief efforts.

26-27 May. International ecumenical consultation on Churches and the Kosovo crisis meets in Hungary, gathering 40 church leaders from around world, including Yugoslavia, to discuss common response to Balkans region.

11 June. In a public statement, WCC, CEC, LWF and WARC welcome peace agreement and UN resolution, and appeal for protection of Serb minority, reconciliation and reconstruction in the province under strengthened UN mandate.

29 June-2 July. WCC / CEC ecumenical delega-tion visits church and religious leaders in Kosovo, humanitarian organizations, and OSCE. The delegation's report highlights humanitarian needs and efforts toward a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Kosovo.

29 July. WCC / ACT issues US$37 million appeal for post crisis assistance with church-related partners in Serbia (Vojvodina, Sandzak and Kosovo), Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and neighbouring countries.

16-17 August. CEC and WCC convene a consultation of church-related peace and mediation organizations working in Kosovo. The meeting affirms the need for a comprehensive and long-term approach to the sub-region, which enables local churches and civil society partners to promote inter-ethnic reconciliation and tolerance.

10 December. In a letter to Patriarch Pavle of Serbia about the widespread destruction of churches since the deployment of KFOR in Kosovo, WCC and CEC ‘vigorously denounce’ ‘the desecration of these often ancient churches [which] represents a loss not only for the Christian community, but for the cultural and spiritual heritage of the world’.

15 December. WCC / ACT issue a US$ 53 million appeal for affected populations following the Kosovo crisis. The Appeal covers the whole Balkan area and, all the humanitarian needs that the ACT implementing members in the region plan to respond to in the year 2000, in addition to continuing regional co-ordination. The number of ACT implementing members included in the appeal totals 12, of which some work in several countries/areas of the region.

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