National Council of Churches logo represents the church 
as ecumenical ship, serving the world

1999 NCC News Archives

Two See U.S. Soldiers, Offer Bibles, Family Messages, Prayers
Religious Leaders Delegation to Belgrade Also Meets Yugoslav Faith Community

April 30, 1999, BELGRADE, Yugoslavia – The three U.S. soldiers captured by Serbian forces on March 31 had nothing to read; now they have Bibles – signed by all 19 members of a U.S. interfaith delegation. They also have received messages from their families, audio-taped especially for the delegation to carry. And, after being kept isolated from one another, they have seen one another.

So reported the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.), the two delegation members who got in to see the soldiers today (Friday) just after 6 p.m. local time. Rev. Jackson, Founder and President of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell, General Secretary, National Council of Churches, are co-leading the delegation, which includes U.S. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders.

"The Bibles were signed this very morning by everyone in the religious mission to Belgrade. So we were there with them in a very real sense," reported the Rev. Roy T. Lloyd, Broadcast News Director for the National Council of Churches, who is accompanying the delegation. "And it’s a gift from home signed by all the people who came here to show their concern for the three young Americans.

"We rejoice that they were visited, that word that people loved and cared for them was shared, that Rev. Jackson prayed for and with them, that they were brought together, that they met Americans for the first time since their captivity and they know people have them in their thoughts and prayers," he said. "In some small way the caring touch of the family was delivered."

Earlier Friday afternoon, the entire delegation met for two hours with Yugoslav religious leadership "across the spectrum" – about 16 or 17 persons, the Rev. Lloyd reported.

In their statements, which he described as "frank," "all of the religious leaders of Yugoslavia said that the U.S. bombing is hurting innocent people and they urged their religious counterparts to do what they could to stop the bombing." Dr. Campbell, the Rev. Jackson and the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Ecumenical Officer of the Orthodox Church in America, Syosset, N.Y., also spoke.

The meeting needed to end abruptly before dialogue could continue to a deeper level, the Rev. Lloyd said; the hope was expressed for an in-depth follow up conversation.

Other meetings/developments of the day included the following:

- Dr. Nazir Uddin Khaja, M.D., Chairman and President, Board of the American Muslim Council, Los Angeles, Calif., was able to worship with the Muslim community today.

- A small group of delegates, including Rev. Jackson and Dr. Campbell, met with the President of the Chamber of Citizens, with whom they "had a productive discussion about what would make for peace."

The group’s meeting with the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch was reported in an earlier news release. Following is an excerpt of a March 25 public statement, signed "Serbian Patriarch Pavle, President of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church," which was used as the basis of the Patriarch’s remarks today:

"The Serbian Orthodox Church, in the misfortune which has affected our Homeland by NATO’s bombardments, appeals to the governments of all countries in the world for their action in order that the bombardment would be stopped and that the just solution for the exit from the actual crisis may be found through negotiations.

"The Serbian Orthodox Church appeals to the military and civilian authorities of Serbia and Yugoslavia to do everything so that peace may be established. We call upon all diocesan bishops, in Serbia and abroad, priests and faithful people of our Holy Church, in this calamity which came upon us, to multiply their prayers to the Good Lord, the only One who is in the possession of peace, that peace would be granted to our tortured and suffering nation, but also to other people who live together with us.

"May this Appeal of ours, to the World and domestic public, not remain only as the ‘lone voice from the wilderness.’"


NCC Home Page
NCC News Service Index