THE ORTHODOX DIOCESE OF RASKA AND PRIZREN

D E C L A R A T I O N
ON PEACE AND TOLERANCE

About the peaceful settlement of the difficult situation in Kosovo and Metohija

1. We express our deepest concern because of the general deterioration of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija, especially because of the recurrent armed conflicts in which mostly innocent civilian population is suffering. Therefore, we urgently appeal on the authorised representatives of the Serb and Albanian people to do all they can to stop any kind of violence and that all conflicts and problems are resolved peacefully in the process of unconditional dialogue.

2. We also feel great regret and sympathy for numerous refugees, abducted and arrested persons and all those who lost their homes and personal property. The value of the human life as well as the respect of the basic human rights and personal property should be an imperative obligation of all who live in the contemporary civilized world.

3. We call all authorised representatives to help in resolving of the extreemely difficult humanitarian situation, that normal travelling and supply of food, medicines and other neccessities is normalized. We think that the return of all refugees as well as the repair of their damaged houses and property should be realised and faciliated as soon as possible. We also appeal that international humanitarian organizations are given opportunity to visit freely all who suffer, especially arrested and abducted persons and administer their humanitarian aid to them.

4. We firmly condemn all cases of looting of the personal and state property, especially destroying of family homes which are being burned either with intention to prevent the return of the refugees or out of revenge and barbarism. The treasure of Kosovo and Metohija is reflected in the rich mosaic of its cultural and ethnic varieties and to-day, at the treshold of the 21th century, it is any use of violence, especially against unarmed civilian population is totally inacceptable.

5. We express our sincerest regret because of the damage inflicted upon religious monuments. We make an appeal that all religious monuments: churches, mosques, cemetaries, and all other buildings of historic and cultural importance are adequately protected and preserved from destruction. Destroying of the rich cultural and historic heritage which makes this part of the Balkans unique and world known is absolutely unacceptable and deserves outright condemnation of the entire civilized world. We also appeal that believers of all three confessions are allowd to visit freely their shrines and perform their religious rites. We call all the authorised representatives to allow priests, imams and monastics to perform their religious and humanitarian duties freely.

6. Religious facilities and institutions must remain oases of peace and tolerance and any kind of violence against them must be prevented. These facilities and institutions must not be used for non-religious and non-humanitarian purposes. We appeal on members of all three confessions, especially the clergy to take an active part in humanitarian action on behalf of the war-stricken population, no matter to which national commu-nity or religion they belong. All refugees and civilians who find refuge in religious objects, especially women, children and elderly people must be granted full security.

7. We respect the right of every person to have his or her own political, national and re-ligious beliefs but at the same time we call all citizens of Kosovo and Metohija to ex-press their positions in peaceful and civilized way and show at least the minimum of tolerance for those who disagree with their positions.

8. We also condemn any use of violence for political goals. We think that all existing problems in this region can and must be resolved in a peaceful and democratic way with full respect of the human rights of any group or individual.

9. The final political solution must be reached by dialog among the authorised representatives of the peoples who live in this territory. In order to achieve a successful dialogue it is absolutely neccessary that violence and repression are stopped before-hand. No matter what is the final result of these negotioations all peaceful citizens of Kosovo and Metohija must be granted collective and personal security and unalienable right to stay in their centuries old dwellings with the full respect of their human rights.

10. We call all citizens of Kosovo and Metohija to refrain from any use of violence against their neighbours and work on building confidence meassures among the members of all national communities and confessions. Despite the existing language, historic, cultural and religious differences between the various groups in Kosovo and Metohija, the common interest of all citizens is the peaceful and dignified life as well their right on personal security and protection of their property.

11. Especially we appeal that existing educational problems are resolved as soon as pos-sible. The youngest must be granted all conditions for modern education which is an unalienable right of any human being. We appeal that schools support and inspire tolerance and peaceful life and condemn use of education for political goals with intention of spreading inter-ethnic hatred and revenge.

12. We resolutely disagree with any kind of religious and ethnic discrimination as well as the human rights violations and repression. We support the idea of peaceful joint life of all citizens in mutual respect and tolerance. This is where lies the future, not only of this region but also of the Balkans and the civilized world.

13. As highest representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija we feel that it is our duty and obligation to make all possible personal efforts and use our authority among our congregation that above mentioned principles are duly observed and realized as soon as possible. We firmly believe that in this way we can make an important contribution which will help that further violence is prevented and a peaceful democratic solution of the Kosovo and Metohija problem is found.

BISHOP ARTEMIJE OF RASKA AND PRIZREN
Prizren, February 25 1999