Time For Peace

Now is the time to make peace in the Balkans.

People everywhere are becoming increasingly outraged by the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovar Albanians by the Serbian army. It's the Cold War revisited, with China calling the bombing the greatest human catastrophe since World War ll and Mikhail Gorbachev calling it "disastrous" and saying that NATO has lost-"politically and morally." The International Herald Tribune, an American paper published in Europe, reports that opposition to the bombing has surfaced in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East in official statements, newspaper editorials and public protests. Feelings against the bombing were strong enough in Italy and Greece to inspire acts of urban guerrilla violence. Meanwhile, Sergio Vieira de Mello, leader of a UN humanitarian team visiting Kosovo, called the "ethnic cleansing" of Albanians in Kosovo "shocking" and "revolting" and Hillary Clinton likened the Albanian refugee situation to the Jewish holocaust depicted in Spielberg's Schindler's List.

NATO claims that the 14,000 bombs and missiles used in two months of airstrikes have destroyed a third of Serbia's heavy military equipment. They have also purposefully destroyed much of the infrastructure-- including bridges, oil refineries, electric power plants, water supplies, and media and communication systems while "accidentally" or "collaterally," in military-speak, destroying hospitals, embassies and a few thousand Serbian and Albanian people. Steven Erlanger of the New York Times reports from Belgrade that the Serbian people are "deeply weary" and reduced to a "caveman" life but are "still defiant" and don't blame Milosevic. He reports that the Serbs "feel they are right to be fighting for Kosovo" and "are proud of their brave if inevitably futile defense against all the might of NATO."

A former employee of the American Embassy said that the bombing "will not make people revolt against their government.... Making people's lives miserable is not solving any problems." The people of Serbia want a peace agreement and they are resigned to the fact that foreign troops will come into Kosovo, but fear that people are dying for the reputations of politicians on both sides. Yet, with dark humor they still joke about it, asking, "Why will Bill Clinton become the next President of Yugoslavia?" The answer: "He's succeeded in uniting the Serbs and destroying the Albanians."

There is a growing consensus of public opinion in the USA, Yugoslavia and throughout the world for a peace agreement that will ensure the safe return of ethnic Albanians to their former places of residence in Kosovo with the help of a UN-led and NATO-supplemented peacekeeping force. It's time for the President of the United States and members of the Senate and Congress and everyday people to engage in personal diplomacy and activism at every level to stop the senseless killing.

Last Sunday here in Columbia, South Carolina, we held an interfaith peace vigil at our State House to protest the war and received positive media coverage. Everyone wore black ribbons to symbolize our call for an end to the war. David Edwards of Lexington, SC, said, "War does not bring peace," and called for an immediate end to the bombing and a UN-brokered peace accord. Janet Swigler of Columbia heard about the vigil at her church and decided to come because she's worried about the worsening plight of the Kosovo refugees. "You see their pictures and you know it's hard," she said. "I know how comfortable it is to go back home every night." For the first time in my life, I wrote every member of the US Senate and Congress on Friday and asked them to work for peace.

Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," and the Pope and the Prelate of the Orthodox Church have called for an end to the bombing and "ethnic cleansing" and a peaceful, diplomatic settlement. The religious and ethnic differences between Albanian and Serbian people are not worth killing one more human being over. I hope and pray that peace will come before our knights in shining armor start coming back home in body bags because that will bring the killing home and end the conflict.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life for the cause of peace and justice and spoke to the present crisis when he said: "Returning violence for violence only multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

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