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Statement on crisis in Kosovo


Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President, NCCB/USCC

March 24, 1999

The crisis in Kosovo requires a serious response by the international community, given the escalating attacks against the civilian population, the Yugoslav regime's brutal history of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Croatia, the regime's alarming record of repression and human rights violations in Kosovo over the past decade, and the mounting risks of a wider regional conflict. As the Holy Father has repeatedly emphasized, "the international community must not stand aside."

According to credible outside observers, the Yugoslav authorities bear primary, though not exclusive, responsibility for the grievous harm suffered by the civilian population during this conflict. The massive, widespread and ongoing attacks against civilians by the Yugoslav authorities appear to be conducted as a matter of policy and are morally unacceptable in any case.We deeply regret that the situation has deteriorated to the point where NATO is now undertaking a bombing campaign. We pray that, while the sustained efforts by the international community to reach a political solution have not borne fruit, reason will prevail and a political solution will be achieved as soon as possible.

The NATO bombing campaign poses difficult moral and policy questions on which persons of good will may disagree. It seems clear to us that the humanitarian objective -- protecting civilian populations, which have already suffered greatly, from further indiscriminate attacks -- is a legitimate one. What is less clear are the consequences of the use of force. What harm will Serb civilians suffer? Will bombing protect the civilian population in Kosovo against aggression or instead intensify these attacks and strengthen the Yugoslav regime's resistance to a political settlement? What are the consequences of failing to act? What is the likelihood of bombing achieving its aims, and what is likely to follow if bombing does not succeed? Finally, how does bombing comport with international law?

What is clear is that there is no substitute for a genuine dialogue between the parties to this conflict, a dialogue that, in the end, offers the best and only hope for a new relationship between the peoples of the region, one based on authentic self-government, with control of local institutions returned to the local population and effective guarantees of minority rights put in place and enforced.

We offer our prayers for all whose lives are at risk: the people of the region, men and women in military service, and others. And we earnestly pray that political leaders will spare no effort to seek a just resolution of this conflict as swiftly as possible.

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