Most Reverend Theodore McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
United States Catholic Conference
July 8, 1999
I acknowledge and welcome the recent statements by Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle I and Bishop Artemije of Raska-Prizren (Kosovo), who called the policies of the Yugoslavian government criminal and the root cause of the recent war and violence in Kosovo. Their condemnation of the horrible atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated against ethnic Albanians and their call to accountability of the Serbian political leadership deserve broad support. The Orthodox bishops' expression of growing concern about the retaliatory violence against Kosovar Serbians also merits the attention and action by the international community. As United States Catholic Bishops, we share their concerns and deplore these actions. It is time for the horrible cycle of violence to end. We pledge to work with leaders of all religious faiths to renew and strengthen interreligious dialogue and work cooperatively to repair the damage done by this terrible conflict.
The effort by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to bring to light the full extent of ethnic hatred, state-sponsored and individual crimes and violence that lie at the heart of this conflict is a necessary first step in accountability and an eventual reconciliation. We welcome the initial attempts by KFOR to establish order and security, to de-militarize the KLA and to prevent retaliation against Kosovar Serb and Roma families. Every effort must be made by the international community to establish an effective civil administration and police force as rapidly as possible to ensure that the violence ends. Otherwise, the seeds of a continuing cycle of despair and revenge will sprout once again in this scarred and war-torn region. We also hope that all prisoners will be released and returned to their families as soon as possible.
As the international community designs a post war-reconstruction effort, we urge that economic and development aid be provided for the entire region, including to the Serbian people. The Serbian nation as a whole must examine and acknowledge its responsibility and role in the human rights atrocities and tragedies visited by them upon their neighbors, but the individuals who perpetrated these terrible crimes are the ones who should be punished. A way must be found to provide assistance to the Serbian people and the more democratic elements of Serbian civil society that does not harm or penalize an entire population for the actions of its undemocratic leadership and of criminal elements who are not reflective of the nation itself. The task is to help meet the basic human needs of the Serbian people. Provision of adequate aid on a timely basis becomes critical in light of the up-coming winter season. Otherwise, the international community and the countries of the area risk deepening the wounds among the peoples of the region for future generations that could lead to new rounds of violence. Only a just and balanced regional reconstruction aid effort offers a window of authentic hope for genuine reconciliation and peace.