Who is the Winner?

The War in the Balkans

by Milan Radovanovic

The author, a member of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship living in Belgrade, is finishing his studies at the Faculty of Theology of the Serbian Orthodox Church. This was written during the NATO bombardment.

When the war breaks out, everybody says: “We want peace.” The invaders say: “We have attacked in order to make peace. The invaded say: “We are defending ourselves in order to keep the peace.” And thus the war goes on until a measure of evil has been fulfilled.

Prayer: Lord, if we cannot stop the war, help us at least preserve love and peace in our hearts.

Belgrade 1999: I live in the country waging war with the greatest armed forces in the world. In the center of Belgrade, while I am writing this, cruise missiles and bombs of enormous destructive power keep hitting my immediate surroundings. People I meet daily while shopping for bread are getting killed, while the seriously wounded cry all night long until they are rescued from the ruins. Children are paralyzed from shock and fear.

At the same time lines of refugees are fleeing their homes into insecurity where the only secure things are famine, sickness and death.

The horror of this war, as in all the preceding ones, is that those who suffer most are innocent people.

Battle Field “Yugoslavia”: Military technology and the precision of modern weapons have improved considerably over the past decades though the definition of what is a military target becomes less and less precise. But we who have served as guinea pigs for testing these horrible weapons, are impressed that “intelligent” rockets and bombs cannot distinguish between innocent and guilty.

Is There a Way Out? The war has completely spoilt everyday life. Helplessness, despair at having lost all property and fear of death are predominant feelings in the war. Many people would like to go back to their former careless and comfortable way of life, but God does not respond to their wishes: “The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He fully accomplishes the purposes of His heart; in days to come you will understand it clearly” (23:20), the prophet Jeremiah said a long time ago in a situation much like ours.

For the majority, there is no such thing as a secure place to hide from death.

An Old Persian Story: A rich and powerful Persian was taking a walk in his garden together with his servant. The servant was crying because he had just met Death, who said he was soon going to take him away. He asked his master to let him have his fastest horse so that he could to run away to Teheran and be safe there by night fall. The master let him do so, and the servant fled on horse back. On his way home, the master happened to meet Death and asked, “Why are you threatening to take my servant?” “I did not threaten him,” answered Death. “I was just surprised at seeing him here — I was expecting to find him tonight in Teheran!”

Jesus Christ: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, for whoever wants to save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me, will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25)

Fear of Death: Inner restlessness and fear of death are definite signs that we are far away from God. Fear of death is, in fact, fear of meaningless life. It is fear of coming in the presence of God, without having finished one’s life work. It is not the war that causes that fear. It only reveals it.

Impotency of Evil: If we have just a little faith, evil has neither the power nor the force to knock us down. That is why it is not only the bearers of evil and death that are separated from God, but also those who fear that evil and death.

God: While the war goes on, we feel God as being very cruel. He is not malicious, though. He expects us to respect His will, to be His collaborators in this world. He is always willing to help us do so. Difficult circumstances, such as war should not prevent us from doing so. On the contrary, the more difficult the conditions, the greater the glory.

Guilt: When the war happens, we tend to blame exclusively the adversary. It seems to me that God looks at the war in a different way; for Him everyone who has not found his way in God’s sight is to blame.

Peace: In wartime everybody agrees that the most important thing is to stop the war and make peace. This is the way people see it. In God’s view, the silence of arms is not enough; He wants the peace to dwell with love in people’s hearts.

Flower: I keep watching a beautiful rose in my garden. It blossoms and gives off a sweet fragrance, even now when I’m not tending it. It doesn’t mind the war, or the weed that keeps choking it, or the fact it has not been watered or dug up for months. From year to year it has been doing what God had created it to do. It is strange how distant we are from a mere rose.

Victory: The most important battle in this war is not going on in a battlefield but against an invisible enemy. Our goal is not to destroy other people, or to do our best to make them better. Every battle must begin and end up with the victory within ourselves.

Evil will be beaten only when we allow Divine peace and love to settle in our hearts forever.