Orthodox Observer - April 20, 1999



My beloved spiritual children,

Christ is Risen!

With such a voice and expression of faith, we greet one another during these festive days following the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, especially through these days when we witness the ravages of war on our televisions and in the newspapers, we ought to strengthen our faith in the Risen One, for only He can bring true and lasting peace to our world.

In the last month, we have seen the face of war in the continuing conflict in Kosovo. We hear a multitude of voices expressing every kind of opinion over how our Church should respond. As your Archbishop, I have tried to exert as much moral force and argument as I possible can to encourage a peaceful settlement to the very real and complex problems in that part of the world, so very close to ancient center of our Faith. We know from our Lord Himself that "those who live by the sword, die by the sword," and that violence alone cannot provide the solution to our problems. We have also seen the heartbreaking plight of the enormous refugee crisis becoming worse every day, with no apparent end in sight.

As Orthodox Christians, our duty must first and foremost be to pray for peace, for as our Lord said in another place: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." And we must do more than pray, for the Lord blessed those who 'make peace.'

In calling for a cessation of the bombing of Yugoslavia during Holy Week, I had hoped for a window of negotiation to open for all sides in the conflict. Unfortunately, our pleas and the pleas of many other Orthodox and world religious leaders went unheeded.

We cannot condone this bombing, for in addition to destroying innocent life -- what the press conferences call "collateral damage," the bombing is hardening the positions of all sides and exacerbating the refugee crisis. On the other hand, we cannot condone the violence that is being perpetrated on the civilian. Therefore, we stand in the midst of a dilemma, which can only be overcome by our efforts to bring healing.

We must stand with our Serbian Orthodox brothers and sisters, and particularly with His Beatitude Patriarch Pavle, for he has been a consistent moral force for peace and justice in the region. The Serbian people are a long-suffering people, who have endured much, particularly in World War II. The memory of the hundreds of thousands who died at the hands of the Nazis and fascists is a powerful memory in this small country. This memory must be honored, not exploited, and certainly not punished for the sins of a few.

We also have the Christian, indeed human, obligation to offer our assistance to any and all innocents whose lives have been shattered by this conflict. I am proud of the work that IOCC has been doing and the generosity of the faithful of our Holy Archdiocese in the contributions that have come forward to support the relief effort. These efforts are a direct manifestation of our Christian love in a place where love and respect for human life has been diminished by the forces of violence.

As the days and weeks continue, let us redouble our prayers and our acts of mercy, as being the most significant contribution that we can make from afar. Let us pray that the bloodshed will cease and that a righteous and reasonable solution may yet be found, so that the dignity and value of all the people of this troubled land may be safeguarded in truth and in justice. Let us pray for the peace of the world and in whatever capacity God gives each one of us, work to make that peace a reality.


[ Orthodox Observer - April 20, 1999 - p. 6 ]