March 24, 2004
Dearly beloved in Christ,
As Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, we deplore the terrible and senseless outbreak of violence and intolerance witnessed this past week in Kosovo.
We have heard the pleas of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. We join them in praying for the victims who were murdered or forced to flee from their homes while 18,000 international peacekeepers watched this wanton violence against the minority Serbian population and the destruction of the centuries-old cultural and spiritual heritage of the region—including UNESCO-protected sites.More than 3,000 people have been left homeless, 28 persons killed, and many injured. Furthermore, 30 churches and monasteries were destroyed, bringing the number of churches destroyed in Kosovo over the past four years to approximately 145. In addition, numerous villages were torched and leveled to the ground.
Terrorizing civilian populations, like terrorist activity in other parts of the world, must be confronted openly and directly. Ethnic cleansing is wrong, no matter who is doing it. Such intolerance, and hatred cannot and must not be rewarded.
We call on the United Nations and responsible Western governments to intervene swiftly and forcefully to restore a safe and secure environment in Kosovo, to protect the rights and property of minorities, and to preserve the remaining centuries-old religious sites throughout the region.
Having called upon our government to take appropriate measures, we call upon you also, our spiritual children, to let your voices be heard in the media and in the offices of your elected officials. We ask you, during this Lenten season, to intensify even more your prayers for peace in the world. Pray that our Lord will comfort and offer solace to the homeless and eternal rest to the victims of this violence.
To learn more about this crisis, tune in our radio program “Come Receive The Light,” on Saturday, March 27, where you will hear a radio interview with Fr. Irinej Dobrijevich at the Patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade. In areas not reached by the broadcast, you will find it on www.receive.org.
For those wishing to help the immediate needs of those displaced, including food, shelter and medical care, please know that our agency, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has been working on the ground in Kosovo since 1993. It is providing continuous humanitarian assistance to the refugees and persons displaced by this great tragedy. Donations can be sent to: IOCC, P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, MD 21263-0225; or call toll free 1-877-803-4622.
We urge you to express in every God-pleasing way your support for our brothers and sisters in Kosovo.
With Paternal Blessings and Love in Christ,
+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Orthodox Church in America
+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
+Metropolitan NICHOLAS OF Amissos, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America