Friday, November 03, 2006

An Open letter to Pat Robertson

Also related to the Robertson matter, I just learned yesterday from bytyci that Mark Orila wrote a letter to the editor of Java, a Kosovar weekly newspaper.  Though it is in English I’ve reprinted the letter in English here:

An open letter to Pat Robertson


Dear Mr. Robertson:


Grace and Peace in the name of our Savior.  I hope this letter finds you enjoying His blessings!


Allow me to introduce myself.  I have been working among the Albanian people as a servant of the Gospel since 1995 -- first in Albania, later in Macedonia, and since 1999 in Kosovo.  I am from the state of Louisiana, and my sending organization is the Assemblies of God


I was deeply alarmed last week to read an article in the Financial Times entitled US evangelists 'join campaign to keep Kosovo within Serbia'.  According to the article, Bishop Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox Church claims to have enlisted from you a promise to use your influence to oppose the independence of Kosovo on the grounds that an independent Kosovo would “provide a base for an ‘extremist Islamic jihad’.” 


Upon reading the article carefully, I noted that while your name was invoked, you were nowhere quoted directly.  Therefore, I’m writing in order to request a clarification from you.  I would also welcome this opportunity to share with you some of my insights gained from almost 12 years of working in this part of the world.


Mr. Robertson, I wish you could have been here with me in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and watched as people stood in line to give their own blood for the victims of the attack.  I wish you could have experienced for yourself not only the mass rallies and marches but also the flood of personal telephone calls and visits I received expressing solidarity and support with the USA.  I wish you could have been with me this past July 4th as hundreds of local people gathered in the town square to celebrate American Independence Day as though it were their own.  I wish you could have seen the cities, towns and villages all across Kosovo illuminated by candles this past September on the fifth anniversary of the 2001 attack as our friends here shared our grief.


Kosovar Albanians are probably the most pro-American people outside of America itself.   In fact, they may be more pro-American than Americans.  American flags flutter from one end of Kosovo to the other.  Hardly a day goes by here that someone doesn’t tell me, “God in heaven, America on earth!”  (Admittedly for me as a Christian, this statement causes a bit of an embarrassment; I love my country, but this comes a little too close to idolatry for my comfort.)   In fact, Albanian devotion to America has roots that go far deeper than the 1999 NATO intervention.  Every schoolchild here learns that were it not for U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, the nation of Albania would have never existed.


There are, of course, Islamic extremists here -- as in the USA and everywhere else.  (I was physically attacked by one of them last year; he was tried and sentenced by a local court the very next day!)  Bishop Artemije is attempting to spread alarm that if Kosovo becomes independent then these extremists will gain ascendancy.  This claim is deeply ironic.  If the US were to oppose Kosovo’s independence, the Albanians would feel betrayed by their only friends.  Then the jihadists (who are currently a tiny and despised minority) might have a chance of gaining a wider hearing!


There is a further irony in Bishop Artemije’s appealing to American evangelicals for support.  This is the same bishop who once wrote an article in which he anathematized anyone who darkened the door of a Protestant church.  Local pastors remember that when Serbia ruled here, evangelicals were labeled a “satanic cult”.  Even today evangelicals in Kosovo have far more legal protection than our brothers in Serbia proper.  Kosovo and Serbia both passed religious laws in the last year.  The Kosovo law should be a model for Europe; it guarantees the rights of Protestants by name!  The Serbian law, by contrast, institutionalizes the longstanding discrimination against evangelicals.


Even graver than the persecution of evangelicals is the way in which many Serbs invoked the name of Christ and the symbols of Christianity as they carried out atrocities in the wars of the 1990s.  I’ll never forget traveling around Kosovo after the war in the summer of 99 and seeing thousands of burned Albanian homes with the cross carved into the charred ruins.  The ultimate emblem of love and self-sacrifice was turned into a symbol of hatred more akin to the swastika.  The sad fact is that elements of the Serbian Orthodox Church blessed this kind of behavior, and in so doing, they severely undermined their claim to be the defenders of Christianity here.


Of course Albanian attacks on Serbs and Serbian religious sites such as those which occurred in March 2004 must also be acknowledged and condemned.  I certainly want to see a Kosovo where Serbs, Albanians and everyone else are fully free and secure.  I’m convinced that the vast majority of Albanians want this as well and that it can be achieved. 


Mr. Robertson, I am sincerely praying for you that if you do speak out on the situation in Kosovo that your words will be well-informed, wise and humble.


God bless you! 


Mark Orfila

 I appreciate Mark’s proactivity on this issue as evangelicals are being misrepresented.  This misrepresentation has significant consequences for our relationships with both Albanian and Serbian people.



bytycci said...

Jeff, thank you very much for posting these letters, and for translating one of them. I appreciate it, and I think I can speak for all Kosovars on this one. I posted them on my english langauge blog,
Again thanks and the best to you. Are you in Kosovo right now? How is the atmosphere there?

Jeff said...

bytycci, you're welcome and thanks for cross-posting this to your English blog. The translation of the letter actually comes its author, Mark Orfila in De├žan. He was good enough to email me a copy.

I'm currently in the US, but plan to return to Kosovo in July.