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1999 NCC News Archives

Milosevic Government Promises Release Sunday of U.S. Soldiers
U.S. Interfaith’ Delegation to Belgrade Secures Promise, Sees Soldiers Again Saturday

May 1, 1999, BELGRADE, Yugoslavia – The Milosevic government today promised a delegation of U.S. Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders that it would release the three captured U.S. soldiers to the delegation on Sunday.

Several of the 19 delegation members – including its co-leaders, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder and President of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches – met for about three hours Saturday morning with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, during which time they made a humanitarian and religious appeal for the soldiers’ release.

Later, delegation members were called back to the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry and informed that the soldiers would be released. "When Rev. Jackson and Dr. Campbell returned to the hotel with the news, as they came in the door, they burst into tears," recounted the Rev. Roy Lloyd, Broadcast News Director for the National Council of Churches, who is accompanying the delegation.

Saturday’s events also included a second meeting with the three soldiers, captured March 31 by Serb forces. On Friday, the Rev. Jackson, Congressman Rod Blagojevich and reporters for CNN and The New York Times had met with the soldiers; today, a larger contingent from the U.S. religious leaders delegation spent about half an hour with the soldiers.

The nine delegation members who met with the soldiers today included Dr. Campbell, of New York City; Rabbi Steven Bennett Jacobs, Los Angeles, Calif.; Dr. Nazir Uddin Khaja, M.D., Chairman and President, Board of the American Muslim Council, Los Angeles; the Rev. Fr. Irinej Dobrijevic, Serbian Orthodox Priest, Cleveland, Ohio; the Rev. James Trent Meeks, Pastor, Salem Baptist Church, Chicago, Ill.; the Rev. Jackson, of Chicago, and Mr. Blagojevich.

Dr. Campbell reported that the group was able to "pray with them, and laugh with them, and be very serious. I think the whole gamut of emotions was felt and expressed. It was an overwhelming experience and I thank God for it."

In statements made during the course of the day, the Rev. Jackson praised Dr. Campbell, saying that without her and the National Council of Churches, the religious leaders delegation could not have been put together." Dr. Campbell in turn thanked the Rev. Jackson for his inspiration in leading such an effort and believing that it could succeed.

The Rev. Jackson summarized the group’s mission when he said, "The choices are to go forward by hopes and dreams or simply to recycle pains and sorrows, and we choose the positive option. We must build spiritual bridges that cannot be blown up. We can bring about peace with security if we have the will to do so."


This story was reported by Roy Lloyd and written by Carol Fouke, both of the NCC Communication Department.

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