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European Vietnam looms,
Serb priest warns on Internet

by Hieromonk Sava


National Post, Canada

Wednesday, March 31, 1999

'Attacks are nothing but barbarous aggression which affects mostly the
innocent civilian population, both Serb and Albanian'

National Post

Editor's note: This is a letter transmitted via the Internet from Hieromonk Sava, a Serbian Orthodox priest, at the monastery of Visoki Decani, Serbia, as NATO missiles fell on Saturday.

DECANI MONASTERY, KOSOVO - I am writing this appeal while the NATO bombers and cruise missiles are spreading death and destruction all around my country. It is my moral obligation to say that the statements by the NATO officials that only military targets are attacked in Yugoslavia are not true and they are intended to deceive many peace-loving people in the West that their air force is in a "humanitarian" action.

From our credible sources we learned that several dozens of civilian facilities (infrastructure, education, telecommunication, environment, and traffic facilities) were attacked and destroyed by NATO air force. Besides, there are more and more civilians who are killed or crippled by NATO bombs, including refugees from Bosnia and Croatia. Their refugee camp was hit near Kursumlija, and 10 women and children were killed or wounded at the spot.

Several schools have been destroyed and many of them damaged so that children cannot go to schools any more because there is a danger that they might be killed in them.

The areas with important cultural and religious monuments are also targeted. The day before yesterday, the Gracanica monastery area was attacked. Thank God, there is only a slight damage on the monastery roof, but on the other hand several family homes were burned to ashes.

Last night a cruise missile hit the old town in Djakovica, mostly inhabited by Albanians, and made a great fire in which several Albanian houses were destroyed and several civilians seriously wounded.

In short, NATO attacks are nothing but barbarous aggression which affects mostly the innocent civilian population, both Serb and Albanian. Their continuation will not only break the will of the people of Yugoslavia to live in freedom but will strengthen their determination to resist tomahawk democracy which is trying to bring peace by crimes against humanity.

Such actions are a shame for Western democracies and the whole world. The Serbian Orthodox Church remains fully faithful to the principle that good can never be achieved by evil and that the Kosovo crisis must be resolved by peaceful and diplomatic means, so that all peoples living here will be granted full protection of their human rights and freedom. NATO attacks will only make the things worse. They will definitely destroy the prospects of peaceful co-existence and will further radicalize extremists on both sides. And, finally, the greatest victims of this criminal policy will be innocent civilians.

We have the full moral right to protest against these crimes because our church has strongly condemned acts against civilians committed both by Serb and Albanian extremists in this conflict and has made great efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement of the crisis. As much as we have committed criminal acts against innocent civilians and their property in the course of the last year, by extremists on both sides, we are equally condemning these NATO attacks which do not differ at all from what we have seen in Kosovo so far. In fact there is a danger that NATO bombing will produce a far greater humanitarian crisis than the one we already have. These inconsiderate actions will destabilize the Balkans and possibly create a European Vietnam which will obstruct the political and economical processes in Europe for years ahead.

Unfortunately, many people in the West still live in illusion that their super-powerful and precise air force is fighting against the FRY [Federated Republics of Yugoslavia] military. The truth is that there are more and more civilian victims and damages on exclusively non-military facilities. Therefore the Western governments bear great responsibility for these criminal acts in front of God and history.

The ironic statements that the goal of this operation is to prevent suffering of civilians are absolutely hypocritical and tragic. President [Bill] Clinton speaks sweet words to the Serbian people while his bombers mercilessly destroy schools, kindergartens and fill the hearts of children with hatred against the peoples which they believed were their friends and supporters of true peace and democracy.

It is not true that our country is against the peaceful solution of the Kosovo conflict. The paper proposed by the Yugoslav delegation in Paris granted full autonomy to Kosovo Albanians and all other national communities. The delegation also said that they were ready to accept a certain kind of international supervision. What our delegation did not accept and what no one in this country can accept is secession of Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia and Yugoslavia and occupation by NATO forces. There is not a single country in the world which would accept such terms. Therefore the claim by Mr. Clinton and others that our country is against negotiations and peace are not true. The truth is that we cannot accept disintegration of our country, not even under the threats of NATO missiles and bombers. I am always ready to ask for my fellow Albanian neighbours the same rights which Serbs and all others in this country have, but neither me nor anyone in our church can accept that Kosovo is given into the hands of Albanian extremists who have already cleansed 50% of Kosovo from Serbs and other non-Albanian ethnic groups, who kill our children in cafes and our farmers working in fields. Unfortunately, by openly supporting the Albanian separatists, NATO is not supporting suffering civilians on all sides, as it so proudly said, but exclusively those forces both among Albanians and Serbs who want more war and blood.

It is true that Kosovo has many refugees and many times we have urged responsibility on both sides to stop their violence and let the people go back to their homes. But the West forgets that in Serbia, there are 600,000 refugees who are now directly endangered by NATO bombs.

In the name of God and my fellow Albanian and Serb neighbours, I make a strong appeal on all people of good will to stop these barbarous attacks immediately. Peace is not built by the deaths of innocent children and the pride of the mighty ones.

Letters to Editor: letters@nationalpost.com

Hieromonk Sava, a Serbian Orthodox priest, at the monastery of Visoki Decani, Kosovo i Metohija, Serbia,

Decani Monestery Web Site is at: http://www.decani.yunet.com/

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Last revised: March 31, 1999