Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 19, 1999
Stop the bombing, say Church leaders
Canadians say 'great evil has been done'
Canadian Church leaders have called on NATO to immediately and unilaterally halt its bombing in the former Yugoslavia.
In an April 13 letter, leaders from nine Christian churches urge Prime Minister Jean Chrétien "to stop, reconsider and carefully change direction."
"We appeal to you to replace the current strategy with renewed diplomatic efforts to reach a negotiated solution," they told the prime minister. A possible Canadian role in finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict is being undermined by its role in the bombing.
While Western governments sought to do good in Kosovo, "in fact a great evil has been done," they said.
The letter was signed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' general secretary, Msgr. Peter Schonenbach.
Other signers represented the Anglican, United, Mennonite, Armenian Orthodox, Lutheran, Canada Orthodox Church in America, Quaker and Presbyterian churches.
The Church leaders were to meet with Chrétien April 15 to discuss the conflict.
In the letter, they said while they support Canada's efforts to defend human rights and build peace, they cannot support the means used to achieve those goals.
"NATO bombing has only escalated the tragedy (in Kosovo) and created a starker humanitarian catastrophe," the Church leaders said.
The focus of diplomacy should be taken away from NATO and given to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), they said.
The OSCE's membership includes all of NATO, as well as Russia and all other states affected by the crisis.
As well, the Church leaders said, Canada should call on the UN Security Council to play the central role in overseeing diplomatic and humanitarian response to the crisis.
The Canadian Church leaders' letter is part of international efforts by churches to bring peace to the Balkans.
The Vatican has waged an intense diplomatic effort to stop the fighting or to at least bring about a ceasefire.
The Vatican's foreign minister said the Vatican's chief diplomatic concern in the crisis is to get both sides to recognize the consequences of their actions and end the suffering of the innocent.
The foreign minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, hand-delivered a message from Pope John Paul April 1 to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic calling for the ceasefire.
The message was also sent to U.S. President Bill Clinton and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana Madariaga.
Earlier, Bishop Francois Thibodeau, chair of the Canadian bishops' social affairs commission, said Canada's role in the bombing "is a cause for sadness."
In a March 31 letter to Chrétien, Thibodeau said the bishops are worried diplomatic efforts "appear to be given second place in searching for a solution to the political crisis."