His Grace Artemije
Bishop of Raska and Prizren (Kosovo and Metohija)
Address at the Woodrow Wilson Center
February 14, 2006
Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been engaged in a global struggle against jihad terrorism, which threatens not just America but peaceful people of all faiths and nationalities. That is why we who live in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija find it difficult to understand why so many voices of influence in Washington support a course of action that would hand to the terrorists a significant victory in Europe.
This month talks are set to begin that will determine the future status of Kosovo, which since 1999 has been administered by the United Nations under NATO military control. While the U.S. government has taken no formal position on the outcome of the talks, many in the U.S. Congress, in the Administration, and among NGOs believe that independence is the "democratic" outcome for Kosovo in accordance with the demands of Kosovo's Muslim Albanians, who greatly outnumber the province's Orthodox Christian Serbs. During the years of international control, the violence directed against us had been decreased only by the reduction of the possible targets – fewer Christian Serbs to be attacked or kidnapped, fewer remaining churches and monasteries to be demolished by perpetrators who are never apprehended.
As the archpastor of Kosovo's Orthodox Serbs, I have come to America, once again, to bear witness to the agony that has befallen the Christian people of Kosovo and to warn against the path that lies before us. Detaching Kosovo from democratic Serbia would mean a virtual sentence of extinction for my people in the province – the larger part of my diocese – who continue to face unremitting violence from jihad terrorist and criminal elements that dominate the Albanian Muslim leadership. Even today, while the international community maintains formal control, Kosovo has become a black hole of corruption and organized crime, including trafficking in drugs, weapons, and slaves. All too often these things happen under the noses of NATO soldiers, who fear to confront these criminals directly. Indeed, the sporadic outbreaks of violence are themselves cited as justification for independence, as if appeasing Muslim "frustration" in the form of an ongoing intifada will bring peace anywhere. The details are catalogued on the website www.kosovo.com , and I am ready to answer any questions about the daily reality in Kosovo today.
Nothing I say is to suggest that prior to 1999 all was well in Kosovo, before the initiation of international administration. But now, to empower men of violence with state authority is no solution to problems that go back many years. Forcibly detaching Kosovo from democratic Serbia, contrary to all accepted legal principles, cannot resolve the absence of the rule of law and of elementary standards of human rights.
A workable solution for Kosovo must address first of all the fact that Kosovo is part of sovereign Serbia, and that a solution must be found that provides for the human dignity and respect for all people, whether Albanian or Serb or Roma or Turk, whether Muslim or Christian. Viable and balanced plans have been put forward, that can ensure safety for all citizens with a fullest degree of self-rule, in accordance with all accepted standards. The question of status is one of legality and not of politics. Kosovo Albanians, on the other side, have engaged all available resources to convince the world, one way or another, through peace or violence, that the independence of Kosovo is a panacea that will solve all of Kosovo's problems and automatically improve all basic standards, and bring peace and stability to the region.
I emphasize that the push for independence for Kosovo is neither inevitable nor desirable. I think many Americans would be shocked to learn that key sectors in their government - heeding the pressure of a noisy and well-funded lobby – is pushing for Kosovo independence, which would consign the remaining Christians of Kosovo to the mercies of a violent Islamic jihad movement. At a time when money and radical propaganda pour into Kosovo from around the Islamic world, I ask: does it make sense for America to hand them a great and unnecessary victory? Even aside from what may happen to my people – which is my first responsibility – what can be gained from such an outcome in terms of peace in the Balkans, or in Europe? What can America gain?
I know that people in enlightened countries, in democratic countries, do not like to think in terms of winners and losers when it comes to matters of religion and ethnicity. What I have proposed as a preferable solution tries to address everyone's needs and fears within a democratic European country, Serbia. But let me assure you, that is not how the radicals on the Muslim Albanian side and their jihadist supporters around the world see it. The victory of jihad in Kosovo would be a local triumph pointing the way to further victories to come, eventually to a worldwide victory. They would point and say: "Where is their God?"
As Christians, our hope of victory is not an earthly one. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God." I remind you that in our part of the world, we suffered centuries under shari'a rule, and no man knows the numbers and names of all the martyrs from those times. We do not prefer to repeat that nightmare, but we are prepared for it if it comes. But my plea to you, as citizens of the United States, is that your country would not help hasten that day for the Christian Orthodox people of Kosovo.
I would be happy to address any questions you might have.