Remarks by the Presiding Bishop on the NATO Bombing Campaign

March 19, 1999

Friday in Lent V

During a season marked by self examination, repentance and reconciliation to God and one another, we find ourselves witnessing the terrible spectacle of violence and civil strife being visited upon the people in the state of Kosovo and wider Yugoslavia. I invite those in positions of public trust to seek guidance from the One from whom all wisdom flows.

The acts of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo are deeply repugnant and stir up memories of ethnic hatreds that have marred the course of history. The civil strife that has ensued has uprooted and displaced families; the conflict has especially endangered the safety of children, the elderly,and the most vulnerable in society. According to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, since the beginning of the conflict in Kosovo a year ago, some 450,000 people have been displaced by fighting -- more than 260,000 of them in Kosovo alone.

The response by NATO to use overwhelming military power to halt these heinous acts will be widely debated. We need to hear the concern of the Secretary-General of the United Nations that the Security Council should have an active role in any decisions related to the use of force and in the peaceful settlement of this dispute. The UN charter recognizes the Security Council as having the primary responsibility in international peace and security. I also applaud the Secretary General's repeated pleas to the Yugoslav Government to pursue peaceful means of resolving some of the long-standing tensions within the country.

I am personally torn by this decision of NATO because its purpose is noble while the means are so violent. Christ calls us into relationship and the present course leads us to further alienation from one another. Yet for us to stand by and allow the genocide to continue is also intolerable. Regardless of what our conscience may tell us about the decision to undertake this massive bombing campaign, the failure to resolve this problem through discourse points to a profound failure of the human spirit and will. It also reveals the insidious way in which religious perspectives, grounded in God's all embracing compassion and love for humankind, can be subverted and made to serve the idol of ethnic or national self-justification. I urgently appeal to President Milosevic to re-consider his options and pursue the path of peace through negotiation. And I invite the whole church to join me in prayer for the safety of the people of Yugoslavia, especially in Kosovo, and for the safety of the men and women of all the Armed Forces who have been placed in harm's way.

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

Tagged in: Lent Europe