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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC Calls for "Moment of Peace" Cease-Fire on All Sides in Kosovo
to Coincide with Eastern Orthodox Easter Weekend, April 9-12

CWS Continues to Send Food, Tents, Bedding as Part of Planned $1.2 Million Response

HOW TO HELP:  Send funds to Church World Service, Attn. Kosovo Crisis, 28606 Phillips Street, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone: (800) 297-1516, ext. 222. CWS assistance to date totals $900,000 with more planned; story that follows includes details.

April 6, 1999, NEW YORK --- As Church World Service, the relief and development ministry of the National Council of Churches (NCC), continues to provide emergency assistance to refugees and people displaced as a result of violence in Kosovo, the NCC has issued a call for an April 9-12 cease-fire on all sides to coincide with Eastern Orthodox Easter weekend.

The "moment for peace" would begin Good Friday in the Eastern calendar, April 9, and last at least through Bright Monday, April 12. The NCC is inviting heads of its 35 Protestant and Orthodox member communions to join in "this truly religious alternative to violence."

"We are calling for this 'moment for peace' not because we believe it is the ultimate answer to the conflict, but because it is a symbolic statement of hope," said the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, NCC General Secretary. "A cease-fire could break the cycle of violence and provide an opportunity for intense negotiation."

"His Holiness Patriarch Pavle (leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church) is one of many church leaders in Europe and elsewhere who have joined in a movement for peace in this troubled region," said the Rev. Paul Wilson, NCC Europe Director.

"Leaders of the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and other worldwide faith groups have specifically called for a moment of peace during Holy Week," he said. "This call is in the spirit of statements from Pope John Paul II, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. Joined in a worldwide ecumenical community, we pray that perhaps such a moment for peace will provide an opportunity for the United Nations to search for a path to peace."

Dr. Campbell has also requested a meeting with President Clinton to discuss "this prayerful request. It comes from the depth of a Christian tradition that for centuries has held the holy days separate and apart from human conflict."

In a letter to President Clinton, sent Monday and released publicly today, Dr. Campbell stressed the "blessings of liberty" in the United States, where "Christians and adherents of other religions may freely express their convictions by addressing their president and government, and their legislators, on matters of conscience."

"Serbia, as part of communist-ruled Yugoslavia, has been for some five decades ruled by an officially atheist system that did its best to marginalize religious belief and practice," Dr. Campbell continued in the letter. "Nevertheless, the Serbian Orthodox Church has been a faithful witness to the Christian faith.

"The Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Kosovo, Artemije, has steadfastly and courageously and publicly stated that the conflict in Kosovo cannot be resolved with dignity and in peace until the ethnic Albanian and Serbian communities can engage in honest dialogue – and that such dialogue is prevented by a dictatorial government in Belgrade and by militarized groups, both Serbian and Albanian, in Kosovo. Patriarch Pavle, in the present crisis, has called for peace and for a cease-fire observed by all."

Meanwhile, Church World has already sent $900,000 in assistance to partner agencies working on the ground in Albania and other regions affected by the crisis in Kosovo as part of a $1.2 million response.

So far, CWS has provided $800,000 for tents, blankets and mattresses to Diaconia Agape (DA) in Albania -- specifically 1,000 tents, 25,000 blankets and 10,000 mattresses which are being purchased in the region. Diaconia Agape is the social and development office of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, and has been working within Albania to assist Kosovo refugees with material assistance.

On April 2, airlifts of relief goods consigned to DA began arriving in Tirana -- flights that included relief items funded by CWS and other members of Action by Churches Together (ACT), a worldwide network of churches and related agencies meeting human need through coordinated emergency response.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland. These airlifts -- coordinated by DanChurchAid and flown by the Danish Air Force -- will continue throughout the coming week and will include additional food, tents and blankets.

In addition to its partner relationship with DA, CWS has channeled $100,000 for bedding through International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the official overseas humanitarian assistance agency of Orthodox Christians in the U.S. and Canada. IOCC has provided emergency food and hygiene assistance to refugees and displaced persons in both Macedonia and Montenegro. IOCC is also working to coordinate new shipments of aid into the region and to provide direct assistance to orphans, disabled, and elderly persons.

Working through local partner organizations and fellow ACT members is a guiding principle of CWS, since local partners are in the best position to provide the fastest and most efficient assistance given their knowledge of local infrastructure and their understanding of cultural sensitivities, said Donna Derr, Director of the CWS Emergency Response Office.

"Working with partners allows us to be immediately active because we don't have to send our own personnel," Derr said. "In addition, money that would be used to send personnel can be used for an immediate response that is defined by the local partner and may include hiring of additional staff from the area or procurement of goods from the immediate region." In that respect, working with local partners is a more cost-efficient method of operating, she said.

"Our partners are also important to us because they reflect many of the values and concerns that all of the ecumenical community shares," Derr said, including a commitment to assist disaster survivors regardless of their religion, nationality or cultural heritage. CWS also has its own staff in Bosnia, and they are assessing the most critical needs of the estimated 15,000 Kosovar refugees who have fled to Bosnia.

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