Christian Leaders Ask Clinton, Milosevic
for Easter Cease-Fire

By Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 3, 1999; Page A10 

Christian leaders from the pope to Pat Robertson to the heads of the
Orthodox church are pleading for a cease-fire during Easter as a first step
toward ending hostilities in Kosovo.

The pleas range from letters to President Clinton with specific policy
recommendations on how to negotiate peace to anguished denunciations of
violence inserted into prayers. Their urgings have left the religious
community as one of the few unified voices speaking out against Western
military involvement in Yugoslavia. Pope John Paul II employed his powers
as both diplomat and moral conscience in his drive for an Easter peace.
Last week he dispatched the Vatican's top diplomat, Archbishop
Jean-Louis Tauran, to Belgrade to convey his plea for a week-long
cease-fire.

The conflict in Kosovo is "causing untold suffering to peoples and is sowing
hate, violence and death," the Roman Catholic pontiff wrote in a letter.
"Tell the children, mothers and elderly people that the pope is with them,
and that he will continue to be with them until a just and lasting peace
reigns in the land of the Balkans."

On Wednesday, all eight Catholic cardinals in the United States made a
rare unified statement asking Clinton to cease the bombing and asking
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to stop military and police
operations against civilians in Kosovo. They urged a speedy return to
negotiations that would guarantee the population of Kosovo a degree of
autonomy as well as respect for its history and law.

"Too many lives have already been destroyed, with additional tragic
reports coming to us daily," said Cardinal James Hickey, archbishop of
Washington, when the letter to Clinton was released.

The Orthodox church, to which most Serbs belong, registered protest to
the war in several ways. Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter one week
later than Western Christians. Several Orthodox leaders, including
Archbishop Spyridon, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the
United States, asked Clinton to halt bombing from April 1 to April 12 to
cover both traditions.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the senior figure in
the Orthodox church, issued a widely quoted, emotional plea to stop the
hostilities.

"On bended knees, I fervently appeal from the tormented depths of my
heart to all world government leaders . . . that they cease fire immediately
and permanently."

Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Chicago filed a lawsuit in
federal court to halt the air attacks, arguing that they are destroying
cemeteries and sacred objects. But the judge refused to hold an
emergency hearing, saying the court had no jurisdiction over military
operations.

Bishop Artemije, the Serbian Orthodox prelate in Kosovo, is known as a
fierce critic of Milosevic but believes the Serbs have a just historical claim
to Kosovo. He has suggested giving Kosovo communities democratic
freedom to resolve disputes among themselves.

Religious broadcaster Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition,
echoed the call to cease hostilities during the two weeks. He, like others,
drew a metaphor between the theme of Easter, which commemorates the
suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the conflict in
Kosovo, where religious leaders hope the suffering will end in a peaceful
and just resolution. 

         Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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