Sunday, August 28, 2005

In The News: Two Serbs shot dead in southern Kosovo

This is really sad news. The area around Strpce has seen periodic violence for a long time. A comparatively multi-ethnic town, it’s been the site of a number of killings in the last two years. The municipality in which I live has a large number of Serbs in and around it and there have been few, if any, acts of violence (with the exception of the March ’04 riots).

The foreign powers have outlined eight “Standards” which Kosova must meet if it wants to continue on to final status talks. Right now, the progress in reaching those standards are being carefully reviewed by international inspectors. One of the standards “freedoms of movement.” That is, the freedom of the population to move about freely without undue concern for their safety. These murders are a blow against freedom of movement and will certainly be held up as evidence that Kosova is not ready for additional autonomy.

Please pray for calm and for wisdom on the part of the national and international leaders here.

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Two Serbs were killed and two wounded on Saturday night when their car was shot at in southern Kosovo, a local political leader and police sources said.

Serbs have been the target of frequent attacks in Kosovo by the ethnic Albanian majority since the end of the 1998-99 war, which led to the withdrawal of Serb forces from the southern Serbian province and the arrival of a U.N. administration.

The four Serb men were fired on from another car shortly after 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) as they drove near the town of Strpce near Kosovo's southern border with Macedonia, town mayor Stanko Rakovljevic told Reuters.

"They were shot at from a Mercedes which had followed them," he said. The Serbs were driving a car with the old "PR licence plates denoting Pristina, rather than the U.N.-imposed "KS" plates used by the ethnic Albanian majority.

A police source confirmed the killings. The condition of the two wounded men was not immediately clear.

The killings are the worst since a Serb teenager was shot dead in June last year in the Serb enclave of Gracanica, for which two ethnic Albanians have been charged.

It comes as a U.N. envoy prepares to submit a report next month on whether Kosovo has made enough progress on democracy and minority rights for negotiations to begin on its "final status".

Thursday, August 25, 2005

In The News: Serbia To Return Bodies Of 84 Ethnic Albanians To Kosovo

We regularly hear from UN friends, “Why can’t they (the Albanians) just get over it and move on?”  They are usually Americans or Europeans, who’s understanding of history is not much deeper than a pizza.  At any rate, this last month the Serbian government is returning 84 more bodies of Albanians killed in the war.  About every six months or so they “discover” a new batch of bodies.  These are then shipped back to Kosovo where the remains are claimed by the family members. 

Usually the are placed in a big tent, rows created from the cardboard boxes which each contain the remnants of a loved one.  Then weeping crowds of people walk through trying to recognize a rotting tennis shoe, a bloody shirt, some bone fragments…anything that might give them a clue as to the fate of their brothers, sisters, fathers or mothers.  So every six months or so, the scab is ripped open again for the nation to see.  At last count there are still over 3,400 Albanians missing.

It’s a little hard to get over.


PRISTINA (AP)--Serbian authorities Wednesday were returning the bodies of 84 ethnic Albanians killed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war - the largest single return of war dead in the province.

The bodies, which were exhumed from a mass grave on the grounds of a police training center just outside Belgrade, will be handed over to their families and U.N. officials in the border area of Merdare, 25 miles north of the provincial capital, Pristina.

The remains are believed to be those of ethnic Albanian civilians killed by Serb forces during the war and removed from Kosovo in an apparent cover-up attempt by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. NATO launched a bombing campaign in 1999 to halt the crackdown of his troops on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Since then the province has been administered by the United Nations.

Authorities in Serbia said that, out of 836 bodies of Kosovo Albanians found in mass graves in Serbia, 566 had been identified and nearly 500 returned to their families. The remaining 270 bodies were expected to be identified by the end of the year.

The families have repeatedly demanded that all the war dead exhumed be returned immediately. Nearly 3,000 people were still listed as missing.

Hundreds of bodies recovered from mass graves in Kosovo and Serbia were to be identified through the matching of DNA from bone samples with that of the relatives of missing people.

Earlier this year, Serbian and Kosovo officials resumed talks aimed at establishing the fate of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and others who vanished during the war - one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues between the two former foes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Breakfast with the Turks

Late last month we got some new neighbors, a Turkish policeman and his wife. This young couple just arrived to serve a one-year stint with the International Police. Suat serves with the police in a village outside of town and his mother and father were staying for a few days to check out their son’s new digs. On Wednesday they invited us for breakfast, which was a real treat. They sat us down to a table overflowing with eggs, sliced tomatoes, different varieties of olives, sausage, jam, and, of course, tea. They are a fairly traditional Turkish family and Suat’s wife and mother were both dressed traditionally with covered heads. What a sweet family.

It was fascinating to sit and talk about Kosova and all the commonalities between the Kosovo and Turkey. We sat around and drank tea served in the same type of cup, made in the same type of tea pot with the same kind of tea leaves. We ate breakfast at the traditional time in both countries and talked about words common in both languages. I am still amazed by the stamp the Ottoman empire left on this region. I’m still amazed how tightly the Albanians hold on to traditions brought to them by the Turks.

I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast with my new neighbors. I love being reminded of the commonalities of all people. Parents are proud of their children, men and women fall in love and want to start families. Newlyweds think about their children’s future before they are even born. Regardless of our religions, our politics or ethnicity, God has built more similarity into us than dissimilarity. To a Christian, no one is really a foreigner, for they all bear God’s image as a creator, a builder and a protector.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

news - Alcatel will extend mobile network in Kosovo

About a year and a half ago the government announced that there would be a second provider of mobile phone service in Kosovo.  They took bids for the contract and companies from the US, Slovenia, Albania and other states all competed.  Someone won the bid, but I never learned what happened.  I was really looking forward to this as the current mobile system (Vala900) is really pretty poor.  Now, it appears, Alcatel, the original implimenter of our system, has been awarded a contract to expand the both the mobile & the landline service.

news - Alcatel will extend mobile network in Kosovo

 Vala900, the mobile operator part of PTK Group, today announced that Alcatel was selected by Vala900 in order to expand its GSM/GPRS network in Kosovo. Vala900 chose Alcatel among other European and Chinese competitors for this Euro 18 million project.

Thanks to the end-to-end solution provided by Alcatel, Vala900 will double the number of its subscribers up to 700.000, equal to more than 30% of the total population, and will be able to start offering value added data services. The solution is future-proof, and is ready for EDGE upgrade.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The things I take for granted...

I was out for a visit to a friends house today.  His wife is pregnant…very pregnant…as in 39 weeks today.  They have been back and forth to hospital for weeks now.  The initial due was the second week of June.  Now it’s the first week of August.  Go figure.  So among their other challenges, their 3-year-old daughter has come down sick.  They took her to the doctor today and he wasn’t sure why she was sick, but though she needed some vitamins.  At any rate, by the time I got there she still had a fever.  I asked if they’d given her any Paracetamol (the local equivalent of Tylenol).

            “No.  We don’t have any,” they said.  

            “Really?” said I.  And then it hit me…again…how much I take for granted.  I probably have 3-4 bottles of Paracetamol in my house, each from various times my kids were sick.  It’s only about two dollars, so I usually buy fresh stuff, having forgotten that I already have it.  Not only that, but I probably have six different variants of children’s Tylenol, Tylenol cold, Tylenol cold & cough, Motrin, etc. in my house.  If I had to guess, I bet you’re in the same boat.  As Americans, we have medications stuffed into every nook and cranny of our bathrooms.

            My friend didn’t have anything.  At any rate, we ran down to the Pharmacy (a twenty minute round trip) and picked up some medicine.  Hopefully my little 3-year-old friend slept better last night :) 


Pastor offers forgiveness

I spoke to my American missionary/pastor friend today.  When I first called him he was actually in court, and sent me a text message saying so.  But he called me back later.  It turns out that the protestant church is building a building in the city of Deçan.  This friend of mine has probably been in Kosova longer than anyone else, speaks very, very good Albanian and has a really well-developed missiology.  In short, he’s someone I really look up to.  Within the community of Dan there as been some resistance to the building of a church.  This isn’t unexpected in a Muslim country.  However, my friend has gone to great lengths to dialogue with those in opposition to create a way through it.


Yesterday a man called him up and invited him to coffee.  The man was one of those who had signed a petition against the building and wanted to talk to my friend.  So they met together at a coffee shop.  My friend brought the plans, hoping to clear up doubts and suspicions.  As they talked the man accused my friend of trying to lure away children.  My friend countered, offering to require express parental permission for all children involved.  After about five minutes of discussion, the man jumped up and started beating my friend.


Fortunately, there was a table of policeman drinking coffee close by, who managed to pull the attacker off fairly quickly.  None the less, the injuries meant being transferred to the regional hospital for treatment.  Today, twenty-four hours later, he was in court.  When my friend appeared before the judge he said that he didn’t’ want to press charges, and said, “I forgive this man” publicly.


At any rate God is big, the Kingdom of God is moving forward here, and I’m proud of my friend.


Hooray, someone's working on the phones

This is great…maybe.  Finally someone is going to invest in the telecommunications infrastructure here.  While this deal only mentions the internet peripherally, I’m hoping that it will give us better access to the internet at well.




Associated Press
Alcatel Signs Deal for Kosovo Network
07.27.2005, 07:03 AM

French telecommunications company Alcatel SA signed a deal Wednesday with Kosovo's Telecom to modernize and expand the fixed-line network infrastructure in the province, an official said.

Under the euro17 million (US$20 million) deal, several dozen outdated systems will be updated with new technology, said Seremb Gjergji, the spokesman for Kosovo's Post and Telecom.

The project also aims to double the number of fixed-line phones, Gjergji said. Currently, there are 115,000 users of fixed telephony.

"The state-of-the-art solution that will be provided is unique in the Balkans and among the most innovative in the world," the Kosovo company said, adding that the agreement will bring province's telecom "the next generation VoIP solution."

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, technology shifts calls away from wires and switches, instead using computers and broadband connections to convert sounds into data and transmit them over the Internet.

The implementation of the project will start in October, Gjergji said.

A Pastor Beaten in Kosova / U rrah pastor

Just got this in my mailbox.  A missionary friend of mine was beaten yesterday in the city in which he works.  As far as I know, this is the first time that an American missionary has faced any physical threat because of their faith while in Kosova.  Here’s the email…I’ll translate:


Greetings in Christ,


We notice that during the recent times we have had more attacks towards the churches of the Lord in Kosovo and against Christians.  This does not surprise us, nor should it make us afraid.  Yesterday pastor XXXX who serves in Deçan, was beaten by someone from Juniku, and the whole event happened before the eyes of the police.  The [attacker] was arrested and the pastor was injured in the head and face.  This happened in connection with the beginning of the building of a church in Deçan and several people have not appeared to like it.  This project has raised complaints against the community government of Deçan which gave permission for the building of this church.  Stay in prayer for this event,


Femi Cakolli.


Pershendetje ne Krishtin,


Po verejme koheve te fundit ka me shume sulme ndaj kishes se Zotit ne Kosove dhe ndaj te krishtereve. Kjo nuk na befason e as nuk duhet te na frikesoje.

Dje eshte rrahur pastor XXXXX qe sherben ne Decan, prej nje personi nga Juniku, dhe gjithe ngjarja ka ndidhur ne sy te policise. Personi eshte arrestuar. XXXX ka lendime ne koke dhe fytyre. Eshte ne shtepine e tij me familje ne Decan. Kjo rrahje nderlidhet me fillimin e ndertimit te objektit per kishe ne Decan dhe disa njerez duket se nuk iu pelqen kjo dhe kane gritur ne fakt edhe ankesa dhe padi ndaj Kuvendit Komunal te Decanit qe i ka dhene lejen e ndertimit kesaj kishe.

Qedroni ne lutje per kete rast.


Femi Cakolli