|Programs » Peace » Kosovo Crisis|
As the bombing continues and refugees flee, our hearts continue to be heavy. Our minds search for solutions or even "handles" which seem elusive. Our prayers are with those who suffer, and for the leadership on all sides. I realize that you are probably receiving messages on the situation in Kosovo from several places. I dont need to do what others are already doing. I have compiled a bit of a "Where to go to find it " list on the war in Kosovo.
Addresses of government officials
Active Peacemaking in violent conflict situations
A Reflection on Pacifism and Kosovo
With images of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Kosovo, and buildings burning in Belgrade, the thoughts and prayers of Christians around the world are centered in the Balkans. My own thinking was framed by two hard questions, one from a Mennonite colleague, the other from a Lutheran friend.
"What do pacifists say about Kosovo?" a colleague asked me on the second day of NATO bombing. "If we don't agree with the bombing, what do we have to offer?" The question implied that pacifists have to "answer for" the carnage and human tragedy unfolding in Kosovo.
What Kosovo illustrates most directly for me is the failure of violence, not pacifism. For much of this millennium, people living in the Balkans have attempted to resolve their differences with violence. Those attempts have failed utterly, miserably and completely.
Both the Serbian military forces who are driving Albanians from their homes, and the NATO forces who are bombing the citizens of Belgrade are attempting to resolve this conflict by using the same technique that has failed to work for a thousand years. Like all previous attempts, these too will fail.
A single picture illustrates this tragic reality. The New York Times carried a photo of an 80-year-old Serbian widow leaving her home in Kosovo in January. Her husband had just been killed by their Albanian neighbors. As she walked out of the village where she could no longer live, she carried a bag of clothing in one hand and her dead husband's rifle in the other. The violence employed against her husband had ignited in her a passion and determination to inflict death on her neighbors.
The current war in Kosovo serves as a stunning example of the never-ending, ever widening cycle of hatred and bloodshed caused by the use of violence. Yet demonstrating the moral bankruptcy of violence does not completely let pacifists off the hook.
On the third day of NATO bombing a Lutheran colleague sent me an urgent e-mail. "What are the Mennonites doing to end the insanity in Kosovo?" she asked. "Can we Lutherans join in?"
I found her question unsettling. Of course Mennonites will respond with food and clothing and shelter for those refugees displaced by war. But what are we doing to end the insanity?
I am not sure there is anything pacifists can do to "stop the insanity" once the use of violence unleashes the passions of war. The time when we can do our best work is before violence breaks out. But that seems to be when we have the hardest time staying focused on peacemaking.
Those who believe violence can resolve conflicts stay active between wars. Guns, tanks, planes and cruise missiles are available to be used in Kosovo because for years, decades and centuries the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Serbia, Germany, Albania and Russia were researching and building weapons and studying and training for war. When leaders on both sides finally thought the situation demanded it - voilá, we had a war. These nations are using violence not because it works, but because that is what they were preparing to use.
What have pacifists been doing these last years and decades and centuries? Well, many of us have been paying war taxes that are used to create the weapons of war and to sustain the armies that use them. Others of us have been flirting with the idea that there are times when pacifism might need to just step back and "bow" to weapons of destruction.
That is not the whole story, of course. Some pacifists have been creating structures like the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) that insert themselves in situations of conflict and attempt to defuse tensions and reduce the violence. Many Canadians have worked for years for a way for pacifists in Canada to avoid paying for war. Many Christians have picked up mediation and conflict resolution as both avocation and vocation. Others work for peace by attacking oppression based on race, gender and economic class.
This is the kind of work we need to do so that we do not always find ourselves mopping up after the carnage of war.
But foundational peacemaking is always harder than humanitarian work. Mennonites sent Mennonite Central Committee millions of dollars to respond to victims of Hurricane Mitch. This was a wonderful response. But at the same time we were struggling to raise several hundred thousand dollars to assist SEMILLA, the Anabaptist seminary in Central America. Many Mennonites in Central America practice an active form of pacifism, involving themselves vigorously in peacemaking and justice work in their societies. Supporting the building of an Anabaptist seminary that teaches people to work for peace and justice is the equivalent for pacifists of building a strong military. But somehow we find this harder to embrace than cleaning up after war.
We are pacifists because we follow the Prince of Peace. We do not have to answer for those who are using violence in Kosovo. But we must acknowledge that Christ is weeping today not only because his children are killing each other in the Balkans, but also because those of us who do not believe in violence did not do more to bring peace when we could.