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1999 NCC News Archives

Religious Leaders Delegation Affirms Intention to Go to Belgrade
Led by Jesse Jackson and Joan Campbell, Group Leaves Wednesday
Agenda: Deliver Families’ Messages to Captured U.S. Soldiers, Meet with Religious Leaders

April 27, 1999, WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A delegation of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders resolved this morning to pursue its humanitarian mission to Belgrade, and will leave Wednesday.

The delegation, led by the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, assembled in Washington, D.C., on Monday. It plans to deliver tape-recorded messages from the families to the three captured U.S. soldiers and meet with Yugoslavian religious leaders. Yugoslavia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vladislav Jovanovic, has issued a written invitation to the delegation to visit the prisoners.

The interreligious delegation includes Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Eastern Orthodox Christian religious leaders as well as one U.S. Congressman.

"This is a pilgrimage of faith, not of politics," said Rev. Jackson, Founder and President of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, based in Chicago. "We go to Belgrade as religious leaders who are concerned about all who suffer in that region. We also have been assured a visit with the three American soldiers captured and held by Yugoslav Army forces. We will share our prayers for their safety and swift release."

"We plan to meet with religious leaders there, with whom we have long ties," said the Rev. Dr. Campbell, General Secretary, National Council of Churches. "The breadth of our delegation reveals our deep concern as people of faith for the captured soldiers and for refugees and victims of violence on all sides. Should we get to see the three soldiers, we are bringing along personal messages to them from their families as well as a Bible for each of them signed by the religious leaders in the delegation."

The families of Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez of Los Angeles, Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone of Smiths Creek, Mich., and Specialist Steven Gonzales of Huntsville, Tex., have all tape-recorded personal messages for the religious leaders to take to the prisoners. The three soldiers were part of the United Nations peacekeeping force when they were captured along the border with Macedonia on March 31.

The stated purpose of the religious mission to Belgrade is as follows:

The U.S. Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders go to Belgrade to support the religious community in Yugoslavia and at their invitation. This is a pilgrimage of faith, not of politics. Our allegiance is to peace and justice for all of God’s children and this mission should be understood in that light. Therefore, the interreligious delegation:

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