Statement on the Present Situation in Kosovo (Leuven Statement)

Nov 10, 2004 | Statement

European Council of Religious Leaders­­/Religions for Peace, Leuven, Belgium, 7-10 November, 2004

The growing dissatisfaction and frustration within both the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities have been clearly heard as the European Council of Religious Leaders/Religions for Peace (ECRL) met in Leuven (Belgium) on 7-10 November 2004. Religious leaders from South East Europe, including those of Kosovo, were among those participating in the meeting together with representatives of European political institutions and international guests.

As a result of deep, frank and fruitful discussions, ECRL came to the following conclusions:

The international community was taken by surprise by the ethnic violence which resulted in many victims, destruction of houses and religious sites in March 2004.  It had failed to understand the depth of the frustration of the population and to defend the rights of the minority. A serious lack of economic progress, together with the absence of a clear political direction and the pressure on the minority population has contributed to this situation.

The ECRL acknowledges the past suffering of the Albanian population and the current sufferings of the Serb population. The fact that only a small number of Serbian national refugees have been able to return, as well as refugees from other non-Albanian communities, is a continuing cause of grave concern for the ECRL. In order to create all necessary conditions and an atmosphere to enable the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons, it is essential that religious and church communities, local communities and international institutions all fulfil their responsibilities.

The ECRL demands respect and protection of all human rights, in accordance with  democratic principles and international law, including the fundamental rights to life, freedom of movement, justice, property, employment and human dignity.

The ECRL commends the initiatives taken by the international community represented by UNMIK, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and through the Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG) to plan the reconstruction of religious and cultural sites damaged in March 2004 in Kosovo. While understanding the need to define a framework for the rebuilding, we regret the lengthy process which so far has failed to produce concrete results on the ground. The frustration created within the Serb community by this slow process can be understood, but we urge the immediate re-establishing of cooperation between all communities and parties.

Religious sites are places of peace with a unique symbolic character for the past, present and future for every religious community and for the entire society. To rebuild those Islamic and Christian religious sites that violence, war and hatred have destroyed during recent years, would give hope for a common future in Kosovo in which minorities are welcomed and their rights protected.

Kosovo has a profound need for concrete inter-religious efforts which demonstrate commitment to reconciliation. To achieve this, the ECRL recommends the immediate revival of the Working Committee of the Inter-religious Council of Kosovo at local and regional levels, gathering representatives of the churches and Muslim community, to identify and to discuss issues of common interest.

The members of the ECRL call upon the religious leaders of Kosovo to acknowledge and confess our shared responsibility before God and our brothers and sisters of all communities. We are all conscious of our moral obligation to work together for the establishment of a new environment of dialogue, mutual trust and sincere cooperation.