9.1. The Local Synod of Constantinople 1872
The Local Synod of Constantinople was caused by the unilateral establishment of a separate bishopric by the Bulgarian community of Constantinople. It was the first time in Church history that a separate diocese was established based on ethnic principles and not principles of Orthodoxy and territory in the city of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Patriarch of Constantinople convened a local Synod to discuss the matter. Below follows the Synod’s official condemnation of ecclesiastical racism, or Ethno-phyletism”, as well as its theological argumentation.
Extract from the Statement of the Local Synod which met in Constantinople in August 1872
We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissentions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which ‘support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness’.
A section of the report drawn up by the special commission of the pan-Orthodox Synod of Constantinople in 1872 set up to investigate racism. This section includes the general principles which the Synod took when it condemned racism and issued its “definition”.
The question of what basis racism — that is discriminating on the basis of different racial origins and language and the claiming or exercising of exclusive rights by persons or groups of persons exclusively of one country or group — can have in secular states lies beyond the scope of our inquiry. But in the Christian Church, which is a spiritual communion, predestined by its Leader and Founder to contain all nations in one brotherhood in Christ, racism is alien and quite unthinkable. Indeed, if it is taken to mean the formation of special racial churches, each accepting all the members of its particular race, excluding all aliens and governed exclusively by pastors of its own race, as its adherents demand, racism is unheard of and unprecedented.
All the Christian churches founded in the early years of the faith were local and contained the Christians of a specific town or a specific locality, without racial distinction. They were thus usually named after the town or the country, not after the ethnic origin of their people.
The Jerusalem Church consisted of Jews and proselytes from various nations. The Churches of Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, Rome and all the others were composed of Jews but mainly of gentiles. Each of these churches formed within itself an integral and indivisible whole. Each recognised as its Apostles the Apostles of Christ, who were all Jews. Each had a bishop installed by these Apostles without any racial discrimination: this is evident in the account of the founding of the first Churches of God.
… The same system of establishing churches by locality prevails even after the Apostolic period, in the provincial or diocesan churches which were marked out on the basis of the political organisation then prevailing, or of other historical reasons. The congregation of the faithful of each of these churches consisted of Christians of every race and tongue.
… Paradoxically, Church of Greece, Church of Russia, Serbia, Moldavia and so on, or less properly Russian Church, Greek Church etc., mean autocephalous or semi-independent churches within autonomous or semi-independent dominions, with fixed boundaries identical with those of the secular dominions, outside which they have no ecclesiastical jurisdiction. They were composed not on ethnic grounds, but because of a particular situation and do not consist entirely of one race or tongue. Nor has the Orthodox Church never known racial churches of the same faith and independent of one another to co-exist within the same parish, town or country.
… If we examine those canons on which the Church’s government is constructed, we find nowhere in them any trace of racism. (…) Similarly, the canons of the local churches, when considering the formation, union or division of eccesiastical groupings, put forward political reasons or ecclesiastical needs, never racial claims. (…) From all this, it is quite clear that racism finds no recognition in the government and sacred legislation of the Church.
But the racial principle also undermines the sacred governmental system of the Church….
In a racially organised church, the church of the local diocese has no area proper to itself but the ethnic jurisdictions of the supreme ecclesiastical authorities are extended or restricted depending on the ebb and flow of peoples constantly being moved or migrating in groups or individually. … If the racial principal is followed, no diocesan or patriarchal church, no provincial or metropolitan church, no episcopal church, not even a simple parish, whether it be the church of a village, small town or a suburb, can exist with its own proper place or area, containing within it all those of one faith. Is not Christ thus divided, as He was once among the Corinthians, by those who say: “I am for Paul, I am for Apollo, I am for Cephas” (1 Cor. 1:12)?
… (On the need to establish racially based churches, ed.) No Ecumenical council would find it right or in the interests of Christianity as a whole to admit such an ecclesiastical reform to serve the ephemeral idiosyncrasies of human passions and base concerns, because, apart from certainly overthrowing the legislative achievements of so many senior Ecumenical councils, it implies other destructive results, both manifest and potential:
First of all, it introduces a Judaic exclusiveness, whereby the idea of the race is seen a sine qua non of a Christian, particularly in the hierarchical structure. Every non-Greek, for instance, will thus be legally excluded from what will be called the Greek Church and hierarchy, every non-Bulgarian from the Bulgarian Church, and so on. As a Jew, St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, could only have been a pastor in one nation, the Jewish. Similarly, S. Cyril and Methodius, being of Greek origin, would not have been accepted among the Slavs. What a loss this would have entailed for the Church!
… Thus the sacred and divine are rendered entirely human, secular interest is placed above spiritual and religious concerns, with each of the racial churches looking after its own. The doctrine of faith in “one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” receives a mortal blow. If all this occurs, as indeed it has, racism is in open dispute and contradiction with the spirit and teaching of Christ.2″
– Constantinople, 10 August 1872
From: Metropolitan Maximus of Sardes, The Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church, Thessaloniki, 1976, pp. 303-308
9.2. The Bosporus Declaration
The Bosporus Declaration was issued in February 1994 by religious leaders of different faiths gathered in Istanbul, Turkey. It is an authoritative statement on the understanding of some of the world’s leading religions of the conflicts that have struck the former USSR and Yugoslavia.
1.The participants in the Conference of Peace and Tolerance wish to thank the Government of Turkey for the courteous hospitality it has extended to us, an opportunity to pursue deliberations on the vital issues of peace and tolerance. The Conference wishes to recognize the contributions of President Clinton, President Demirel, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and all the other religious and political leaders who have sent messages of support.
In this declaration we wish specifically to refer to the Berne Declaration of November 26, 1992, which has given us a foundation on which to build. That declaration specifically states that ‘a crime committed in the name of religion is a crime against religion.’ Since November 26, 1992 we have seen many crimes committed in the name of religion and we, the Conference participants, wish to speak out vigourously against them. As recent events have shown, the crimes against humanity continue in Bosnia, in Armenia-Azerbaijan, Georgia and Tadjikistan. The cruelties have continued unchecked and we demand an end to this brutality. We, the undersigned, reject any attempt to corrupt the basic tenets of our Faith by means of false interpretation and unchecked nationalism. We stand firmly against those who violate the sanctity of human life and pursue policies in defiance of moral values. We reject the concept that it is possible to justify one’s actions in any armed conflict in the name of God.
We wish to emphatically remind all the faithful that the scriptures of all three monotheistic religions specifically speak of peace as a supreme value. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ ‘Allah summoned to the abode of peace.’ ‘His ways are the ways of peace.’
2.We reiterate that the war in former Yugoslavia is not a religious war and that appeals and exploitations of religious symbols to further the cause of aggressive nationalism are a betrayal of the universality of religious faith. We emphasize the imperative of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion of every minority. We call for an end to the confiscation, desecration and destruction of houses of worship and of holy and sacred places of whatever religious tradition. We totally abhor and condemn ethnic cleansing and the rape and murder of women and children. We demand the removal of obstacles that prevent humanitarian assistance from reaching those who are suffering. We condemn the use of force in countries of the former Soviet Union. The conflict in Georgia, Armenia-Azerbaijan, and Tadjikistan must be concluded immediately and solutions of the outstanding issues must be found by other means. We recognise that all who are suffering are victims, but single out specifically the most tragic and innocent victims who are the children.
3.We ask our religious communities to embrace children from the areas of conflict in God’s love and to extend all possible assistance to the suffering children, to help them to find spiritual, psychological, and physical healing. We cannot emphasize enough that spiritual nourishment is a paramount requirement; Religious communities must be supported. We also recognise that all the countries suffering from conflict have had a long, dark period of Communism where there was little or no spiritual education. We urge all faiths to redouble their efforts for spiritual guidance for those who were deprived. We wish to recognise also that tension exists within faiths and urge the leaderships of those faiths to bring about peaceful resolutions to the issues which divide them.
4.The conference participants, as all others who have followed these tragic conflicts, observe with horror the forced migrations of refugees. Millions have experienced or are threatened by forcible displacement. Therefore, we call upon all religious faiths to speak out clearly and consistently against these actions. We condemn those who uproot families from their homes, tear children from their parents, divide husband and wife in the name of false nationalisms. We expect all religious leaders to stand fast in the protection of all those threatened by involuntary migration, whatever their religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds. We demand that all refugees who have left their homes involuntarily be permitted to return with dignity and honour; that the religious communities strengthen their institutions to receive, assist, and protect refugees of whatever faith; that religious and lay relief agencies develop procedures to coordinate their efforts. As long as the conflicts continue we urge all countries to extend temporary asylum to victims, while granting opportunity for refugee status to those who truly seek it; to increase resources for relief; and to work with all who are of good faith for the cessation or hostilities.
5.The participants in the Conference on Peace and Tolerance have agreed unanimously to utterly condemn war and armed conflict; to demand that no hostile acts be perpetrated upon any peaceful group or region in the name of a religious faith; to demand the initiation of constructive dialogues to solve outstanding issues between those of different faiths; and to demand the right to practice one’s religion in freedom and with dignity.
6.We have deliberated carefully and are in agreement that the wanton killing must stop; that those who continue to perpetrate such heinous acts are criminals and that, although we have no weapons of war and no armies for combat, we have a greater strength — the strength of spiritual might. We totally condemn those who commit the brutalities, the killings, the rapes, mutilations, forcible displacement, and inhuman beatings.
7.We, the conference participants, have decided to establish an Appeal of Conscience Conflict Resolution Commission, to deal with ethnic conflicts. The Commission will be made up of representatives from all of the faiths and from all of the countries represented at this conference. The AC Conflict Resolution Commission will be responsible for informing Commission members and recommending ways and means to deal with the scourge of extreme nationalism and ethnic conflict.
– Istanbul, 8 February 1994
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President, Appeal of Conscience Foundation
His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I
His Eminence Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, President of the Office of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Turkey
His Eminence Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President of the Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice Cor Unum
9.3. Statement on the situation in Armenia-Azerbaijan, 1993
Extracts from the Statement of the peace-making encounter of the heads of religious communities of Armenia and Azerbaijan, gathered through the mediation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Danilov Monastery, 18 November 1993.
We, the Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of all Armenians and President of the Supreme religious council of the peoples of the Caucasus and the spiritual head of the Muslims of Azerbaijan, using the high mediation of the Russian Orthodox Church, have discussed the immediate measures that we, responsible religious workers, can and should undertake to save our peoples, to rebuild peace and civilised relations among them.
… We firmly refuse the attempts to represent this conflict as inter-religious. Those who preach hate among religions commit a heavy sin before the all-Highest.
… It is imperative to lead armed forces out of territories that have been occupied by the force of weapons. War should not be waged against the people. All prisoners and hostages that both sides hold should be released. Any form of internationalisation of the conflict, which may have unpredictable consequences, must be firmly countered.
… All these actions can become the basis of negotiations, which should find a peaceful and just resolution of the disagreements. Additionally, this decision should really serve the interests of all inhabitants of the conflict zone, independently of their nationality or confession.
– Danilov Monastery, Moscow, 18 November 1993
9.4 Statements on the events in Russia, October 1993
In October 1993, the tensions between opposing factions in the government of Russia reached a climax in the stand-off around the White House, the seat of the Russian parliament. The following statements of the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church have been taken from a full survey of the mediation attempts of the Russian Orthodox Church during the conflict published by CEC, WCC and the French Protestant Federation in November 1993.
Appeal By the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Alexy II
Russia is on the brink of the abyss. We now face the choice: we either put an end to the madness or bury all hope of a peaceful future for Russia. It is particularly tragic that today the Russian state is in danger of falling apart. Should that happen, we would be condemned by succeeding generations.
The virtually intolerable confrontations around the White House can degenerate into carnage from one moment to the next. And thus, with tears in my eyes, I appeal to the different parties in the conflict: Let there be no shedding of blood! Do not undertake any act that may disrupt the extremely fragile peace! Do not try to solve the political problems by force! Do not give in to madness! Do not cease to display mutual respect for human dignity! Have the courage not to be influenced by any kind of provocation, no matter how painful and insulting it may be! Be mindful that the present confusion may be exploited by extremists, criminals and quite simply, by evil people.
One shot fired at the White House could lead to disaster, the bloody consequences of which could engulf the entire land. It is for precisely this reason that I call for all peaceful means to be used to diffuse the armed confrontation. At the present complicated moment, it is necessary to show mercy towards everyone. No political objectives should prevent the people inside the White House from being supplied with medicines, food, water and medical attention. It is inadmissible that physical exhaustion should be used to prompt the parties involved into uncontrollable, violent actions.
In the name of the Church, I call upon the opposing parties to engage in dialogue and I offer any form of mediation at this fateful moment. In connection with the events currently taking place, an emergency session of the Holy Synod has been convened.
I call upon all the right-thinking Christians to pray for the salvation of Russia. May even those who have never turned to God in their life now call upon Him. I believe that Lord will give strength to his people and that He will bless his people with peace! (cf. Ps. 28:11)
– Moscow, 29 September 1993
ALEXY II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Statement By the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church
The turmoil into which Russia has been plunged prompts us to raise our voice for the sake of life and peace for our brothers and sisters.
The armed confrontation at the White House in Moscow has generated tension throughout the land. Everyone to whom Russia is dear knows that the present conflict could have disastrous consequences, causing bloodshed or the destruction of the state’s power.
In the present fateful moment, Christ’s holy Church must say to the people: “Take thought! Be mindful of the words of the prophet: ‘… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…’ (Deut. 30:19)”.
There is only one honourable way out of the present dangerous impasse: dialogue, based on observance of the rules of law and the renunciation of force. Bloodshed must be avoided under all circumstances. Otherwise, every hope of peace will vanish as bloodshed immediately throws up an unsurmountable barrier between those embroiled in the conflict. We must grasp the fact that no differences of opinion give us the right to behave like enemies towards one another. We are convinced that none of the persons now confronting each other is really the other’s enemy. May each of you be mindful that on the other sides of the barricades are your brothers and sisters, to whom you must be kind. All methods of gross, violent coercion of the will of persons or disregard of their freedom must be rejected as inadmissible. Therefore, no acts should be committed that will lead to chaos in the country’s economic and public life.
We call, above all, for the army and security forces not to be dragged into political disputes. If the army and the public order and security forces are sacrificed to political ambitions, those responsible are committing not only murder, but also suicide. He who first takes recourse to violence will inevitably face defeat and condemnation.
With the power that God has given to us, we officially declare that whoever raises his hand against the defenseless and sheds innocent blood shall be cast forth from the Church and anathemised.
The present turmoil could lead to the greatest disaster of all — the disintegration of Russia’s unity. Therefore, all leaders of the Russian regions must understand one thing: secessions and divisions do not solve local problems. It is impossible to hide from general misfortune behind the walls of one’s own little house. Only together can we overcome the difficulties now facing the people.
We are happy that the Church’s offer of mediation in the present conflict has been well received by the people. We hope that the dialogue now under way will be successful and stress that the churches are ready at all times to assist in the attainment of peace and harmony in State and society.
We urgently call upon the mass media to present an objective and unbiased picture of the country’s political and economic reality. The price of ignorance or error is today too high. Even incomplete information distorts the truth. We are firmly convinced, however, that the mass media should and must serve reconciliation and healing in this conflict, not fuel passions and entrench confrontation.
May our people’s leaders make use of this new opportunity to end the turmoil by peaceful, legitimate and just means. We will, however, pray for peace for the Russian State and people. As of today, fervent prayers will be offered every day in every church for the restoration of peace in our fatherland. The words of Tikhon, the Most Holy Patriarch of All Russia are applicable here: “Rich and poor, scholar and simple folk, old and young, girls and boys, unite and, like the people of Nineveh, put on the penitential robe and pray for God’s bounty, that He may have mercy on Russia and save it.”
May God not turn away from our fatherland! May God save us! May God grant our people peace, well-being and prosperity in all things!
– The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia ALEXY II
Members of the Holy Synod:
The Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine VLADIMIR
The Patriarchal Exarch of All Byelorussia,
The Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk PHILARET
The Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga IOANN
The Metropolitan of Krutitsky and Kolomna YUVENALY
President of the Church Office of External Relations, The Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad KIRILL
The Metropolitan of Orenburg and Busuluk LEONTY
The Archbishop of Kaluga and Borovsk KLIMENT
The Bishop of Tver and Kashin VIKTOR
The Bishop of Talinn and Estonia KORNILY
The Bishop of Vladimir and Suzdal EVLOGY
The Bishop of Chimkent and Tselinograd JELEVFERY
The Danilov Monastery, Moscow, 1 October 1993
9.5 Statements on the War in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1994
Extracts from the Statement of His holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia to the participants at the meeting of the WCC Central Committee in Johannesburg, South Africa 20-26/1 1994
… With sad hearts we see how, knowingly or unknowingly, human beings are destroying the laws given us by God, as one robs the other of justice and peace contrary to Christ’s commandment: “In everything do to others what you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12). We who live in the Balkans and carry out the Church’s ministry in this region of the world, find ourselves daily confronted with unutterable suffering, and not only among the Serbian people whose spiritual head we are but also among other fraternal peoples, be they of other Christian confessions or of the Muslim religion.
In the messages we have addressed to world public opinion and to our own Yugoslavian public the Holy Synod of bishops and I personally have consistently condemned violence, of whatever kind and by whomever it is used, regardless of religion or nation. The true Christian sees that in these wars little heed is paid to the voices of the religious leaders, so that God’s creatures continue to suffer, and most of all innocent people, children, women and those who are frail, old or sick.
… We do not in any way wish to say that there are no wrong-doers on the Serbian side, just as there are on the side of the other belligerents in this senseless war in which there is and can be no winner, but only misery and humiliation before God and before the world.
– Belgrade, 20 January 1994
Extracts from the Message of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
from its extraordinary meeting in Banja Luka, 1-4 November 1994
The Lord will give strength to His people! The Lord will bless His people with peace! (Ps 28:11)
… We are here to give a brotherly kiss of peace to all and send a call for the unconditional ceasing of the insanity of the war and for the establishment of peace and continuation of negotiations. Before God and the people we testify, in our name and in that of our people, to which God has sent and appointed us for the ministry, that we are with all our heart for peace and reconciliation. So, as nobody else desires more bread than the hungry ones, so nobody else desires more peace than those who bleed in the years-long war.
… We request also the leaders of our nation to do everything to establish peace with our up-to-yesterday neighbours, and now adversaries who suffer equally with us. It is dangerous now and illusory to lay the blame upon one another. We must direct our best forces that the conflicts and war be stopped, peace and mutual negotiations be re-established as the only way worthy of men to solve the ensuing problems, according to divine and human justice, for the benefit of both Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We all, as well as the people of good will in the world and the international factors, should employ all our authority and all ethically justified means that the horrors, which threaten the existence of us all, be stopped.
… Raising our voice against further dissemination of evil and hatred among warring peoples of the same tongue, common past and future, we raise also our voice against all divisions and schisms in the Serbian Orthodox nation. Making efforts to establish just peace with our neighbours we should first reconcile with each other. The men of God who for centuries have given an infallible direction for our actions both in peace and war, both in liberty and slavery, expect from us who now represent the Serbian nation and its Church to be worthy of the Orthodox faith and our name; to know how to say and by our own person show that what our Orthodox people should always be: light to the world and salt to the earth; Christ’s sheep among wolves; humans even among non-humans. That the doctrine of the Gospel always be the measure by which we shall measure all our actions, and then the actions of other people: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Mt. 7:12) and the words of the Apostle: “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling”; “For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong” (1 Petr. 3:9, 17).
… Once again we witness before God, before Orthodox and Christian nations, as well as all people of good will: we as pastors and spiritual leaders do not identify ourselves with the authorities on any side of the Drina; but in the same way we cannot separate ourselves from our own our own nation, sinful but belonging to God, in the ecumenical family of nations, but remain with it on the cross on which it is crucified.
… Let us be humans, let us be the people of God, so that the Lord, the Man-lover and Peacemaker, the Saviour of the world, might bless us and all the people with His peace!
– Banja Luka, 1-4 November 1994
Appeal for peace and understanding among all people
Within the general context of the tense contemporary realities, such as those in Bosnia Herzegovina, dominated by violence, chauvinistic nationalism, territorial revisionism, religious fundamentalism, intolerance and fratricidal wars, We, representatives of the two Orthodox families, Eastern and Oriental, Parthenios III, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, Theoctist, Patriarch of Romania and Shenouda III, Pope and Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, met in Bucharest, during the month of September, 1994, on the occasion of the session of the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches.
We would like to assert together anew the traditional creed, ethos and vocation of Orthodoxy in respect for all people, as we are all together human beings, created and loved by the same God, bearing indiscriminately the same image of our Creator.
Throughout the past centuries and down to the present day, the Orthodox faithful confessed their faith in Christ, the Lord of peace, and prayed for the peace of the whole world and for goodwill among all people and all nations. They also tried to promote friendship and fraternal cooperation, in full mutual respect, with all the faithful belonging to other Christian Churches or religious faiths, especially of Islam.
On the basis of this centuries-old experience of faith and love, we call from the bottom of our hearts and souls, both our believers and those of the other Christian Churches, as well as the Muslims, to rediscover and follow the path of love, peace, tolerance, goodwill and mutual respect promoted and pursued by our common forerunners.
Moreover, our hope is that, by asserting together the spirit of peace and understanding promoted by our faiths, we could avert and avoid the attempts of some radical groups or political contemporary powers who, eager to dominate, influence and acquire supremacy, strive to reach their goal by using often abusively the religious faith and feeling, in order to divide, tear apart, sow and nurture hatred among people, countries and nations.
Let us pray that the God of peace and love be with us all and help us to live the truth that was revealed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ when He said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Mt. 5:9).
– Bucharest, September 1994
+Parthenios III, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa
+Theoctist, Patriarch of Romania
+Shenouda III, Pope and Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church
9.6 Statements on the Situation in Kosovo, March 1999
Kosovo Peace and Tolerance — Vienna Declaration
We, the representatives of the Catholic, Islamic and Orthodox communities who have lived in Kosovo for centuries, wish to express our sincere thanks to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation for bringing us together for this unique and important opportunity to deliberate with one another concerning the fates of our peoples. We also wish to thank our generous Austrian hosts for bringing us together in this land of peace and tranquillity, so that we could have thoughtful and fruitful discussions. We are grateful for the personal participation and support of the President of Austria, H.E. Dr. Thomas Klestil, Chancellor Viktor Klima, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Chancellor Wolfgang Schossel, and the encouragement of President of the United States, Bill Clinton, the Secretary General of the United Nations, H.E. Kofi Annan, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the President of the European Community, Chancellor the Federal Republic of Germany, Gerhard Schroder, the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Azedin Laraki, His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, His Holiness Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Russia, the World Council of Churches, and many others.
Further, we pray that the efforts in Paris concerning Kosovo will achieve the peace we are all seeking.
Our delegations have come to Vienna from a troubled region, one that has seen much bloodshed and injustice, and we the emissaries of our faithful, wish to state unequivocally that the war that is now raging in our homeland, where our people are being killed and maimed, and where our homes and places of worship, and our schools and monuments are barbarously being destroyed, is not a war of religions. We state categorically that we are against the killing and destruction, and that we stand for dialogue and negotiation to bring about the peace that God demands of us.
We are proud of our homeland and are tied to it by bonds that reach deep into past generations. We want to bequeath that legacy of pride in Kosovo to future generations. We also know only too well our troubled and tragic history. A history that has all too often pitted differing ethnic and religious communities against each other. We know that past conflicts have left deep scars, have caused unspeakable suffering and have brought forth veritable rivers of blood and tears. We cannot ignore those deep wounds and must grieve for those who have suffered.
Without forgetting our sorrows, however, we want to emphasize to our faithful and to all others in Kosovo that history is recounting the past. No one can change the immutable past. But the future is within our power to influence and direct. In the name of our faithful, we can demand an end to the suffering that has plagued our peoples for so long and call on all to look forward, to change the present era of confrontation to one of cooperation. We, therefore, enjoin all who are wrongly fueling the fires of the bloody conflict now raging in our homeland to stop the killing and destruction and join us in the search for peace through discussions and negotiations.
Although our faiths differ, we maintain that human life is of ultimate value. We all serve God and abide by the commandments He has given us to follow. Therefore, we firmly denounce the killing and all acts of violence. We urge our faithful to solve their disagreements peacefully with those of other religions or ethnic backgrounds, as we have done during our discussions here and in the publication of this declaration.
We pledge that we will bring this message of cooperation home to our faithful, that we will distribute it within our communities, and that we will urge all to lay aside their weapons. Only then, when the weapons are silent and all religious and ethnic communities have the right to express their views through open and free discussions, can we achieve understanding, tolerance, and cooperation and find equitable solutions to our differences.
It is with this in mind that we, the representatives of the Catholic, Islamic, and Orthodox faiths in Kosovo lay down these precepts.
1. Stop the killing and all acts of violence.
2. We call for a verbal cease fire to end the polemics of hate and remind all of the words from Proverbs, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”
3. In cooperation with the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, establish an on-going interreligious “Conscience Contact Group” to continue the work begun by this Conference and to help advance the principle of “live and let live.”
4. Allow all in Kosovo to live in peace, safety and freedom.
5. Insure safe and unimpeded travel in all areas of Kosovo.
6. Permit all in Kosovo to live, worship and work in the knowledge that their basic human and religious rights will not be violated.
7. Preserve and protect houses of worship as well as religious and cultural monuments of all faiths.
8. Permit all ethnic and religious communions to retain their cultural and linguistic heritage and to freely allow those communities to provide education that will perpetuate that heritage.
9. Establish a viable system in Kosovo, one that reflects the wishes of those who live there without violating the rights of any minority.
10. We demand that all assistance from international humanitarian organizations to those in need in Kosovo be transmitted without hindrance and delay.
We, the undersigned, believe that it is our duty to God and to our faithful to state categorically that all must accept the way of non-violence and cooperation. Only then will there be an end to the killing and to the destruction of our homes and places of worship. We, therefore, demand of those who have resorted to misguided violent means to achieve their goals, to lay aside their arms, to withdraw their engines of terrible destruction, and to seize the initiative we offer from our hearts — cooperation and peace — to bring about a better and more fruitful life for all in Kosovo today, and for all those who will follow.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President, Appeal of Conscience Foundation
His Eminence Reverend Marko Sopi, Catholic Bishop of Kosovo
His Eminence Kyr Artemije, Bishop of Raska and Prizren, Kosovo
The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Professor Qemail Morina, Vice Dean, Faculty of Islamic Studies, Pristina, Kosovo
His Excellency Victor Klima, Federal Chancellor of Austria, Witness
Vienna, Austria, March 18, 1999
Peace Appeal of the Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, meeting at the Patriarchate on March 23, issued the following statement regarding the threats over Kosovo and Metohija and the threatened bombing of Serbia and Yugoslavia:
Human experience, both old and new and most recently in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, shows that war and violence, particularly inter-ethnic, leaves in its wake only chaos and general misery, with long-lasting spiritual, moral and social consequences and unhealed wounds.
Aware of this, in the name of God we demand and beseech that all conflict in Kosovo and Metohija immediately cease, and that the problems there be resolved exclusively by peaceful and political means. The way of non-violence and co-operation is the only way blessed by God in agreement with human and divine moral law and experience. Deeply concerned about the threatened Serbian cradle of Kosovo and Metohija and for all those who live there, and especially by the terrible threats of the world’s armed forced to bomb our Homeland, we would remind the responsible leaders of the international organisations that evil in Kosovo or anywhere else cannot be uprooted by even greater and more immoral evil: the bombing of one small but honourable European people. We cannot believe that the international organisations have become so incapable of devising ways for negotiation and human agreement that they must resort to ways which are dark and demeaning to human and national honour, ways which employ great violence in order to prevent a lesser evil and violence.
We pray the Lord of peace, the living and true God, in whose hands are judgement and justice, to give to all in Kosovo and Metohija, and throughout our Homeland and throughout the world, peace, justice, security in freedom, and to the powerful of the world understanding and wisdom.
– Belgrade, 23 March 1999
Statement of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Albania
With all our hart we share the pain of those who suffer injustice and violence as a result of the Kosovo crisis. This extremely difficult situation can not be resolved by rhetorical and naive declarations. But, while we pray every day ‘for those who hate us and for those who love us,’ we humbly pray the God of truth and love to bring about a miracle and make peace and justice reign once more in our unstable region, as soon as is possible. We have already contributed, within the limits of our forces, to ease the sufferings of the Kosovars who have left their homes because of the conflict and have settled in Albania. And we will continue to work in this direction.
– Tirana, 29 March 1999
9.7. Syndesmos Statements
Declaration of the Syndesmos War and Peace in Europe Seminar
We are the participants in the Syndesmos seminar on Peace and War in Europe, which met at the Cultural Centre of the Holy Metropolis of Kydonia and Apokoronos, Chania, on the Island of Crete, Greece, October 1 to 9, 1994. Throughout our meeting, we were blessed to have the active presence of His eminence Metropolitan Irineos, who led us on pilgrimages to holy monasteries, parishes and shrines of Crete. We were blessed to take part in the annual festivity of St. John the Hermit at Guverneto Monastery, to venerate the Saint’s relics, and to visit the caves where he lived, suffered and fell asleep in the Lord.
We often hear the word “Peace” in our Holy Liturgy. Church members are called to transfigure their lives in the Holy Liturgy so that they will be a witness to the angelic words: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to all people.”
During the days we spent in dialogue the following points were considered significant:
1. We remind ourselves that being a peacemaker is one of the Beatitudes and is connected to all the others. If we disconnect peacemaking from the other Beatitudes, we are not be called peacemakers, as we see in anthropocentric peace movements. To avoid the evils of this world, we suggest that we Orthodox should participate in catechetical formation courses about peace, rooted in the Holy Liturgy and the Tradition of the Fathers.
2. We appeal for strongly-bonded Orthodox co-operation in peace efforts. This includes efforts to overcome divisions that exist among Orthodox Churches. There are wounds in the body of the Church which are not the fault of others but of ourselves. We need to pray in repentance for these wounds to be healed.
3. Inter-Orthodox solidarity can be expressed with the strengthening of our existing Orthodox network of agencies for merciful activities. To ensure better use of available resources and to avoid overlapping assistance to victims of conflict, the Church should seek to cooperate and share information with relief organisations working in the same areas wherever it is possible.
4. We support the efforts of the Serbian Orthodox Church in her struggle to find a peaceful solution for the war in former Yugoslavia as well as justice for her people. We also express dismay at the failure of the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical organisations to see the Serbian Orthodox Church in a way not blinded by prejudice and one-sided press reports. We pray and hope that God will bless all the peoples of former Yugoslavia with peace and mutual respect.
5. Being Orthodox means to be a soldier of Christ, that is someone engaged in the fight against evil. People are not the main instigators of conflict but, when they do not resist evil, become tools in the hands of Satan, who always rejoices whenever those who are made in the image of God shed each other’s blood. The main weapon in our combat with Satan is repentance, which must begin with ourselves. As Hegumen Ephrem of the Monastery of Philotheou, Mount Athos, told our conference: “Everyone who does not truly repent and apply the commandments of God is an enemy of God. How can he make peace? How can he sacrifice himself out of love?”
6. Conflict is not only war but any action that causes innocent people to suffer. While economic sanctions are sometimes described as non-violent, in fact the resulting shortage of medicine and food causes many deaths, especially among the young and aged. This too is a form of war. Humanitarian assistance should not be affected by sanctions against any country.
7. Similarly, the distribution of humanitarian assistance should be practised regardless of the beneficiaries’ convictions or identity, but only the needs of the people.
8. We note that in the European region, many conflicts are occurring in areas where Communism dominated, especially in former Yugoslavia and parts of the former USSR. The collapse of Communism left a void easily filled by new evils. It is not, however, the cause of war but rather its absence that has exposed old unhealed wounds.
9. We wish to express solidarity and concern over the fate of Orthodox minorities in the world, particularly in the Holy Land considering its special place in the hearts of Christians everywhere. We appeal to Orthodox churches in Europe to try to understand the different issues concerning conflicts there, especially those of a religious nature.
– Chania, Crete, October 1-9, 1994
A Cry of World Orthodox Youth Regarding the Kosovo and Methohija Crisis
This text was written by the Albanian and Serbian delegates and unanimously adopted by the Assembly.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’
We, the representatives of over 120 Orthodox Youth movements from more than 40 countries worldwide, who have gathered in the XVIth General Assembly of Syndesmos, the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, wholeheartedly sympathise with the pain of all those who have suffered injustice and violence in the crisis in Yugoslavia. We also condemn violence, ask for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence, and pray to the God of Truth and Love to perform His miracle so that a just, permanent and peaceful solution can be found for the troubled area of Kosovo and Metohija. We pray that the Lord will enlighten all those who wield power in the whole region, to act with wisdom and seek peace and sincerely to respond to human misery wherever it is found. Noting the close personal interest of His Holiness Pavle, Archbishop of Pec and Patriarch of Serbia, and His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania, we applaud the Orthodox Churches of Serbia and Albania for their efforts in peacemaking and relieving human pain before and during the crisis.
The delegates further ask all sides involved to act quickly to make good the environmental damage in Yugoslavia and the surrounding countries, and to contribute to the work of reconstruction before the onset of winter, so that the destruction of the civilian infrastructure caused by violence will not result in the widespread loss of innocent human lives. We also pray that God will help both the Patriarchate of Serbia and the Autocephalous Church of Albania to continue to respond to the tragedy with compassion and forgiveness.
We finally express our deep sorrow and condemn the destruction of Holy monasteries and churches, as well as mosques and other religious and cultural monuments in the suffering region.
– Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Valamo, Finland, 24 July 1999