Earlier I posted that the Protestants were only invited as observers, not as participants to the Interfaith Conference in Peja (Pec) Kosova last week. It appears that the Evangelical representatives were involved to a more significant degree than I first thought. Yesterday I received a copy of the documents which came out of the conference. There are many, many good things in this doucment. Some readers might knee-jerk against these sorts of ecumenical types of conferences, but I believe it’s a very positive move for the Protestant churches of Kosova.
INTERFAITH CONFERENCE ON PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE AND DIALOGUE
MAY 2-3, 2006
MONASTERY OF THE PEC PATRIARCHATE
On May 2-3, 2006 the leaders and senior representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Islamic Community of Kosovo, the Protestant Evangelical Church and the Jewish Community gathered at the historical Pec Patriarchate Monastery for an Interfaith Conference on Peaceful Coexistence and Dialogue.
The Conference was held at the initiative of religious representatives in Kosovo, hosted by the Serbian Orthodox Church, and organized and sponsored by Norwegian Church Aid.
On behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle, the Conference was opened by His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral. The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of the International Community, local authorities and other dignitaries.
Gratitude is herein expressed to those who helped facilitate this Conference, notably: The sisterhood of the Pec Patriarchate Monastery, the brotherhood of Decani Monastery, the staff of the Kosovo and Metohija Office of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the international moderators, KFOR, and in particular the Italian contingent at the Pec Patriarchate, UNMIK and local municipal authorities.
The goal of the Conference was to provide an opportunity for the respective leaders of the religious communities to discuss key issues and values shared by their communities, and to identify desired joint initiatives to promote reconciliation and peace, mutual respect and acceptance, common life and cooperation through an institutionalised form of dialogue and concrete project activities.
Therefore, we, the religious leaders, are convinced that hatred and war represent defeat and tragedy for all, while reconciliation and forgiveness lead to freedom for all and for everyone. A person who hates is never free. True freedom exists in serving God by serving every human person regardless of their faith, nationality and every other adherence.
Faith in the God of peace, justice and love deem it unworthy only to tolerate one another as a “necessary evil”. Neither is it enough as persons and communities to merely co-exist one next to the other. Rather, we are invited by our faith and conscience to live one with the other. Ultimately, we desire and pray that we be enabled to live one for the other. In so doing, we respect the identity and dignity of every person and every community by accepting the principle of unity in diversity.
In coming to terms with the past we acknowledge that all communities have suffered. We express sorrow for one anotherï¿½s suffering, praying that this suffering will no longer be a stumbling block. We must move towards an open future with interaction and profound responsibility for each other before God.
We condemn the destruction of all churches, mosques, cemeteries and other religious sites, and we rejoice in the restoration process, which is now under way and we anticipate its completion. We appeal to the wider community to join us in our endeavour to rebuild not only our religious sites, but also to rebuild our lives, our hearts and our minds.
As religious leaders and representatives, we commit ourselves to the
· To hold regular meetings between religious communities at the level of senior religious leaders, between the advisors in the Working Committee and at the municipal level;
· To intensify inter-religious dialogue and cooperation;
· To call upon all to contribute towards the betterment of life and prosperity in order to help facilitate the return process of all displaced persons;
· To promote exchange between religious communities, such as:
o visits to religious sites,
o exchange of lectures between theological faculties,
o as well as enabling the Seminary of St. Cyril and Methodius to resume its place in Prizren;
· To invite the media to communicate our shared inter-ethnic and inter-religious values;
· To facilitate communication and exchange of information between the religious communities: For instance, the compilation of a common address book;
· To continue engaging as responsible religious leaders in the drafting process on the Law on Religion; and
· To convene a seminar at the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, Norway in order to strengthen the local religious leaders in their commitment to peace and reconciliation.
In conclusion, we state that Kosovo is our common home and we commit ourselves to preserving it as a common inheritance for future generations.
The next conference will be hosted by the Islamic Community of Kosovo, in Pristina during the course of this present year 2006.
(The English text of this Common Statement was adopted as the official text of this Conference.)