Monday, November 27, 2006

Happy Flag day...but which flag?

Balkans (94) (Small)Urimi Ditën e Flamurit të gjithë Shqiptareve!!  All Albanians, congratulations on tomorrow’s flag day.  On November 28th Albanians remember the Albanian flag, which has long flown over the Albanian people.  The flag, which features a black, double-headed eagle on a red field is the flag of Albanian people, wherever they might live.

180px-SkandersealThe design itself apparently comes from the seal of Skenderbeu, theAlbanian military hero who united the Albanian people for a time to fight against the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.  The seal, which was discovered in 1634, was bought by the Danish National Museum in 1839 and remains there today.  According to Wikipedia:

The inscription is in Greek and reads Alexander (Skender) is an Emperor and a King. Emperor of the Romaic nations (Greeks) and King of the Turks, the Albanians, the Serbs and the Bulgarians. It naturally follows the inscription is laterally reversed. It is possible that the seal was made after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, since Skanderbeg is referred to as an Emperor of the Byzantines. The double eagle in the center of the seal is derived from the eagle of the Byzantine emperor, and this fact is also the most agreed upon among educated Albanians.

The devotion of the Albanians to the flag is pretty striking.  This week it will be proudly displayed where ever you find Albanians.  In the capital of Kosovo, Prishtina, you’ll see street vendors like this selling the most popular flags.


The flag itself is one of the challenges to imminent Kosovar statehood.  When you ask any Kosovar what the flag of the future state of Kosovo would be the answer is always the same…the “shqiponja” or double-headed eagle flag.  The problem is, naturally, that the state of Albania has already laid claim to that emblem.  While I’m not absolutely certain of this, I’m pretty sure that no two countries can share the idential flag

DardaniaIn answer to this question, and in an attempt to create a unique Kosovar identity, former President Ibrahim Rugova proposed an alternative.  This flag contains the black “shqiponja” on a red circle over a European Union blue background.  The word “Dardania,” on a banner across the eagle.  Dardania is the ancient name for the region roughly corresponding to modern Kosovo.  Though it was hoped that this flag would be readily adopted by the Kosovar people, it has become more commonly known as “Rugova’s flag” or the flag of the LDK, Rugova’s political party.

DioGardiFlagThen, while reading the Iliria Post today I saw another flag proposal.  This one is from former US Congressman Joseph DioGaurdi, the president of the American-Albanian Civic League.  This design really shocked me.  It places the Shqiponja on the blue field of the US flag.  The descriptions below the design reads:

“I believe that this flag represents the heart and spirit of the Albanian people from the whole world, especially to those Albanians of the new state of Kosovo.  It contains the national symbol (with the double-headed eagle) and the national colors (red and black.  The white and red lines remind us of the major role which the USA has played  in which it is known by the Albanian State after the first world war under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, under the  leadership of NATO against Slobodan Miloshevic in 1999 and the present work…”

While I have a great deal of respect for DioGuardi’s work and support for the Albanian people I am amazed to see anyone recommend that another nation’s national emblem be so subsumed by another's.  This isn’t long-term way for one nation to remember another.  I cringe, for example, every time I see the Liberian flag, which looks exactly like the US flag only with one star where the US flag has fifty.

This is probably the last November 28th, the last Flag day, the last Dita e Flamurit, that Kosova will spend without having answered the question of what flag a future state will fly.  By next November there will likely be a new flag and a new nation.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Black Friday," a post-mortem

I haven’t experienced a “Black Friday,” the post-Thanksgiving shopping-orgy, for several years now; I hadn’t really expected that I would either.  But then the emails started coming and the websites started popping up listing the most aggressive pricing at any of a number of stores.  Having a geeky bent, I mainly perused Circuit City, CompUSA, BestBuy and the office supply stores.  Before I knew it I was swept into deal hunting for both things I wanted and those things I really needed.

And then it hit me.  How would I explain this phenomenon to my Albanian friends and co-workers.  I mean that on a couple of levels.  The first thing that hit me was, “how would I explain this in the Albanian language?”  This is an artifact of all true-language learners and they find themselves in new experiences and wonder how to parse those into their adopted languages.  The work for “sale” in Albanian is “zbritje,” but doesn’t begin to cover what its English equivalent is in English.  Words like “rebate,” “cash-back” and “sale” have their own unique American meanings.

After I’d pondered that for a few minutes I wondered how I would explain the cultural phenomenon that is Black Friday without looking like a mad-man.  Consider this: some people camp out the night before in front of their favorite store.  Some are up and in line before their favorite store by 3 or 4 AM.  Now, we accept that as Americans well versed in the fine art of value shopping…but what does this look like to someone from another, not-quite-Western country.

To them it has to look absolutely absurd.  First, people in Kosovo do not have surplus cash with which to buy “things that aren’t needed now but are needed later.”  Those are the bulk of what “normal” shoppers are looking for on BF.  Folks are looking for good deals on Christmas presents or on clothes or other things they’ll need in the future.  Others are thrilled by the sheer joy of “getting a good deal” regardless of whether it is really necessary or not.

As for me, like many others, I stood out in front of Staples to buy my 1GB flash drive for $7.00 (after rebate) and a 200GB hard drive for $20 (after rebate).  Again I was amazed at the line-forming behavior most Americans exhibit.  It really is amazing how well our social system works when there are no authorities around to enforce it.  I expected people to be pushing a rude as the doors opened at 6AM.  And, as the doors opened, the “closet anthropologist” in me noticed that my heart rate had sped up, my breathing had quickened in anticipation of aggressive, fight-or-flight shoppers. There was none of that; only people hurriedly trying to find what they were looking for..f course this was Staples, and not BestBuy or Wal-Mart.

So ends another uniquely American “holiday.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Grenade explodes in Serb classroom

Reuters is reporting that a hand grenade exploded in a elementary school classroom yesterday in a village near YugoGrenadeKamenica, which is near our home of Gjilan.  This is terrible news.  Hand grenades seem to be regularly thrown around by people irritated with each other in Kosovo.  It’s not unusual to hear of one thrown in someone's yard, or under a vehicle or even children finding them in fields, left over from the war.  It is very unusual to hear about one in a classroom or one being used to intentionally endanger children.

PRISTINA, Serbia (Reuters) - A grenade exploded in a classroom used by Serb children in Kosovo on Tuesday, but the elementary school pupils escaped injury, police said.

A Kosovo police spokesman said the grenade exploded in a stove used to heat the classroom shortly after lessons began at around 7.50 a.m. (0650 GMT) at the Trajko Peric school in the village of Veliko Ropotovo near the eastern town of Kamenica.

"The stove was completely destroyed and some parts of the classroom as well," said spokesman Veton Elshani.

A Kosovo Serb education official said the children had been moved to another classroom minutes earlier because their teacher was absent, leaving the room empty. "So tragedy was avoided," Zivorad Tomic told the Serb state news agency Tanjug.

Praise God no one was injured.  I hope they catch whoever did it an put them away for a long time.

Thanksgiving, MK style

 It only rarely occurs to me how I take for granted my cultural heritage.  I really don’t think about my knowledge of Plymouth rock, about pilgrims and indians celebrating the first Thanksgiving.  I had memories of making pilgrim hats and indian head-dresses in school.  It’s just never occurred to me the my children don’t have the same memories.

This week Madision, my second grade daughter, has come home wide-eyed with stories of pilgrims and indians.  She’s never heard the stories.  Oh, we celebrated Thanksgiving each year in Kosovo, but Madison never heard the stories, never made Pilgrim hats, never saw pictures of the first Thanksgiving…until this year.

I’m always surprised when I realize that my kids really are growing up to be “third culture kids.”  I know it intellectually, but the reality is discovered with each new season.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A southern cultuaral experience and American norms

Today I had one of those unique southern American cultural experiences…the gun show.  Four times a year the Wake County Fairgrounds host the Dixie Gun & Knife Show to which thousands of people go.  I went down this afternoon to check it out.  After struggling for quite a while to find a parking place I took my place in a very, very long line waiting to by my ticket.  It was amazing to watch the variety of people waiting to get into an enormous hall full of guns, knives, ammunition and every conceivable accessory and gadget associated with firearms.

This may sound dumb, but what struck me most was how everyone, rich and poor, suburban and more “rednecky” stood in a line waiting to pay their entrance fee.  No one cut in line, no one tried to avoid standing in it. Everyone who arrived found the end of the line and waited patiently for their turn.  Where I live people would have just gathered around the ticket seller and pushed and squeezed until they got their ticket.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in line to pay my phone or electric bill and had to throw elbows and dirty looks to keep my place in line.  It’s just American normative behavior to make and stand in lines. 

In America we are egalitarian to a fault.  No one is better or more deserving than anyone else.  Everybody waits their turn.  Oh, of course there are exceptions…but they prove the rule.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Kosovo's new tourism agency

I’ve heard people talking about developing tourism in Kosovo for several years now.  Now the Ministry of Industry and Trade, of which the Department of Tourism is a part, and Hotours (The Hotel and Tourism Association of Kosovo) have put together a Kosovo tourism portal called “visitKOSOVO.”










This portal will come in handy, not only for future tourists, but also for all kinds of groups that may want to visit this historic land.

via South East Europe Online

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Final status talks delayed...again

The International Herald Tribune is reporting today that Kosovo’s final status talks have been delayed…again.  Recently Serbia approved a draft constitution through popular referendum.  This approval has triggered parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for November but have now been moved back to January.  The Contact Group fears that a final status decision on Kosovo would propel Serbian radicals into power, jeopardize Serbian entry into the European community (in the immediate social sense, rather than the formal sense) and increase instability in the Balkans.

I can only imagine how Kosovar society at large is responding to this news.  Each time they are promised impending decisions they are delayed for various reasons..  While today’s local papers don’t seem to yet reflect widespread discontent, the people I know must surely be disappointed.  In the local media the International Crisis Group is quoted as saying:

The more the Albanians are forced to wait, the more the likelihood that they will take unilateral steps for independence, or civil unrest [my translation].

Unfortunately, this is all too likely.  Kosovars have waited for six years for final status.  Final status means far more than a treaty, a flag and a seat at the UN.  It also means that Kosovar society can finally move forward.  Until that happens Kosovo will not have postal codes, telephone codes and international banking codes.  In short, much of the international machinery for international trade and commerce are lacking in Kosovo precisely because status is still uncertain.  But it is the very frustrations of Albanian society that Serbia may be counting on to limit international goodwill towards Kosovo.  According to a written ICG report:

Serbia’s government still wishes to delay a Kosovo final status decision until mid-2007, although its capacity to do so is becoming increasingly improbable. In order to persuade the international community, it is playing several familiar cards in a game of high-stakes bluff. Belgrade feels that the longer it can delay, the more impatient Kosovo’s Albanians will become. It hopes this impatience will translate into violence that will weaken the Albanians’ position at the bargaining table.

This ploys themselves have a destabilizing influence in the Balkans.The same report is very critical of the new Serbian constitution:

It opens the door to increased centralisation of the state, curtailment of human and minority rights, destruction of judicial independence and potentially even a parliamentary dictatorship. The process used to pass the constitution illustrates how Kostunica continues to transform Serbia into something closer to illiberal authoritarianism than liberal democracy; yet, the referendum was welcomed by the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United States.

This delay doesn’t really come as a surprise to anyone; the writing has been on the wall.  Last week Kosovar Prime Minister Agin Çeku announced that he is prepared to unilaterally declare Kosovo’s independence should international negotiators fail to find a way through the current impasse.  Such a decision would really be risk-filled; it would depend on sympathetic governments announcing their recognition of a unilaterally declared independent Kosovo.

We need to be praying for peace and justice in Kosovo, for the continued patience of the people and for wisdom for both the contact group, and the respective governments of Kosovo and Serbia.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Pat Robertson responds

I’ve written recently (here , here and here) about quotes and positions reportedly from Pat Robertson.   I received this email today from a group mailing list in Kosovo.  It is reportedly Robertson’s response to those who emailed him directly regarding his belief’s about Kosova. 

I have received your e-mail concerning an article you read in your local papers about a meeting between me and Bishop Artimije.  Whatever you read did not come from me.  I met with the Bishop, but I have made no public statement concerning the situation in Kosovo.


The gentleman who accompanied Bishop Artimije for our meeting, tells me that he does not believe the Bishop gave any undue emphasis or inappropriate account of his meeting with me -- which was just one of many other meetings he had with prominent Americans, both official and non-official.  He said he is not sure that what was quoted by the Financial Times accurately conveys exactly what the Bishop said (or through translation meant to say).


He went on to say, "regarding the suggestion that Dr. Robertson has committed to oppose Kosovo independence - as the article states - this phraseology is entirely inappropriate with respect to the nature of the discussion between Bishop Artemije and Dr. Robertson."


I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me concerning the Kosovo situation.


May the Lord bless you and the missionaries who minister in Kosovo.


Pat Robertson

While I believe this email comes from Robertson, or his spokesperson, I would like to see a more public clarification.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's winter again in Kosovo...yuck

Roberta Clogg, my teammate from Kosovo, is one of my favorite writers.  Maybe it’s just because I know her, but I look forward to every post she writes.  Today she writes a great post about winter times…its hilarious.

Winter is definitely my least favorite season…and Roberta summarizes a lot of the questions I ask each and every winter.  I ask the same questions every single winter .

Where are all the women???

“We’re getting away from our roots in the Christian and Missionary Alliance,” those words met me during a breakfast not long ago with a group of Alliance pastors.  We were talking about women in ministry and the pastor, who was new to the Alliance was holding forth on his position over a cup of coffee and a bowl of baked oatmeal.

I had been listening to this well-meaning man for a while but in the end I couldn’t contain myself.  There are many perspectives, theological and otherwise, about the role of women in ministry.  But the roots of the Christian and Missionary Alliance are unabashedly pro-woman.  I pointed this out to the pastor, who was fairly new to the CMA and came from another, more conservative, denomination.  I gave as an example my ordination mentor.  He was from a “historic alliance family,” is very theologically conservative and grew up in a church pastored by a woman in a conservative part of Pennsylvania.  The CMA sent (and sends) out women missionaries who conducted baptisms, served the Lord’s Supper an engaged in all manner of ministries.  I was in another Alliance church this summer that was planted and pastored by a woman.

Frankly, I don’t think a lot about these issues ordinarily but I came across an essay in The Good News of the Kingdom: Mission Theology for the Third Millennium a while back.  Since reading it I’ve been ruminating on the issue.  The essay is entitled, “Revisioning the Women’s Missionary Movement“ by Dana Robert who is Professor of World Christianity and History Mission at Boston University School of Theology. 

Dr Robert gives a historical overview of the growth of the women’s missionary movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  In the essay she traces the decline of the women’s movement  to the decline in missions commitment in the US mainline churches.  She says:

…the fact remains that in the older American Protestant denominations, the commitment of the entire denomination to mission was related to the strength of its women’s mission organization: the stronger the women’s group, the greater commitment to mission by the denomination.

This has startling implications for the Christian and Missionary Alliance; in nearly every Alliance church I hear about their struggles with women’s ministry (Alliance Women).  The most common question I’m hearing from AW groups is: how do we attract younger woman to the AW movement?

I confess up front that I don’t have many answers.  At the same time, if Robert is correct, and the strength of the women’s movement is correlative with the strength of the missions commitment of the denomination, then the CMA is in trouble.

I offer these humble suggestions, more as a point of dialogue than a point of argument or imposition:

1.        Perhaps Alliance Women’s ministry should return to doing “woman’s work for woman” which was the central ideology of the women’s missionary movement.  Perhaps women’s ministry shouldn’t be about trying to do everything for everyone.  While AW generates enormous funding for CMA missionary tasks worldwide, I wonder if focusing on women’s ministries around the world might not invigorate American women to be about the God’s work among women around the world. 

2.       We need to encourage woman to pursue appropriate roles within our own “movement”.    During the peak of the women’s missionary movement women held significant posts in denominational missions organizations.  Our own Mrs. A. B. Simpson served as member of the Board of Managers, Financial Secretary and Secretary of Missionary Appointment in the CMA.  In our day the role of women has steadily decreased at all levels of leadership.  In the CMA we don’t believe women should hold the position of elder in the church.  Fine.  But I think there is a tendency in the CMA to elevate to “elder” positions which are structural and not ecclesiastical.  I recently spoke with a pastor who had upbraided their district executive committee for not having any woman.  A committee member replied that the DexCom functioned as the elders of the district.  This isn’t true; the uniform district constitution of the CMA says,  “The administrative work of this district shall be committed to the District Executive Committee of which the district superintendent shall be the chairperson.”  You get my point.  We tend to sacralize what is organizational and sacrifice promoting women because of it.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but if Robert is correct we better do something significant in the next 5-10 years or our movement may be in trouble.


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.


From Kosovo: An open letter to Mr. Pat Robertson

Several weeks ago I wrote about the relationship between Pat Robertson and bishop Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox church.  At that time a commenter asked why the evangelical community in Kosovo wasn’t reacting to Robertson’s precipitous comments (see the previous post and comments for the background).  The protestant churches and several American missionaries met to formulate a response.  I received an advanced copy of the open letter a few days ago, but didn’t know if I should post it until I was sure it was public. 

After checking, the draft letter reads as follows:

30 October 2006

 Dear Mr. Robertson:

 Grace and peace to you in Jesus' name!

 We the undersigned are national pastors and foreign missionaries serving in Kosovo.  We represent several nations of the world and a wide range of denominations and doctrines within the evangelical spectrum.

 We are writing to express our deep concern at reports we have read in various media outlets as well as on the website of Bishop
Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox Church.   According to these
reports, the bishop met with you to inform you of the "destruction of Christian civilization" here and to warn that to grant independence to Kosovo would be to "permit the establishment of an Islamic state".  In light of these warnings, the bishop claims that you promised to exert your influence to help keep Kosovo in Serbia.

 Mr. Robertson, we who are on the ground working to spread the Gospel in Kosovo are convinced that the bishop has shown you a distorted picture.  We would like to share with you some of our observations and to plead with you to listen to our perspective before taking any action in this matter. 

 First of all, we find it troubling that Bishop Artemije of all people would turn to American evangelical leaders for help.  This same bishop has consistently proven as fierce a foe of evangelicals here in the former Yugoslavia as any Muslim leader.  In an article in a Serbian Orthodox publication, he anathematized anyone who set foot in a Protestant church.  Our brothers and sisters in Serbia still suffer discrimination and sometimes outright persecution as a result of the influence of church leaders such as Bishop Artemije. 
We wonder whether the bishop considers his efforts to stamp out evangelicalism as part of his defense against the destruction of Christianity in this part of the world.

 Today in predominantly Muslim Kosovo, evangelicals have more legal rights than in predominantly Orthodox Christian Serbia.  In fact, Both parliaments passed religious laws in the past year.  The Kosovo law provides one of the strongest guarantees of religious liberty in all Europe, recognizing the Protestant community by name.  The Serbian law favors the Orthodox Church and serves to legitimize longstanding discrimination of evangelicals.

 The bishop's claim that an independent Kosovo would become an Al Qaeda base also strikes those of us here on the ground as absurd. 
Kosovar Albanians are by and large more pro-American than Americans themselves.  The stars and stripes flies side by side with the Albanian two-headed eagle all across Kosovo.  This past year, thousands of local people gathered in cities, towns and villages on the Fourth of July to share in America's joy then again on the 11th of September to share in America's mourning.  A popular saying here is, "God in heaven; America on earth!"

 Bishop Artemije has every right to speak out against the destruction of Serb religious sites and the persecution of Serbs.  We join with him in condemning these attacks in the strongest possible terms. 
Nationalism is unquestionably an ugly, idolatrous force that has left in its wake countless victims of every ethnicity here in the Balkans. 

 However, the bishop's effort to depict this nationalism as "Islamic terrorism" is both deceptive and damaging.  If attacks on Serbs and their churches are Islamic terrorism, then how should one describe the attacks on the Albanian population and their places of worship in 1998 and 1999?  Or how does one account for the fact that these "Islamic terrorists" have never touched Albanian Catholic or Protestant places of worship?

 We do not deny that there are Islamic fundamentalists working to gain influence here in Kosovo - as there are in the USA, Britain and just about everywhere else in the world.  At the moment, these extremists are few in number and are strongly opposed by the vast majority of the population.  But please hear us, Mr. Robertson! If you publicly oppose the independence of Kosovo you will play directly into Islamists' hands in two important ways.

 First of all, the radical Muslims here would love nothing more than to find evidence of a link between evangelicals and the extreme nationalist elements of the Serbian Church.  Crosses carved into the ruins of Albanian homes bombed and burned during the war reinforced the perception that Serb paramilitaries carried out their atrocities with the blessing of the Church.  We hope that you will not make a statement that would cause us to accused of sharing in the guilt for those atrocities.

Secondly, if you were successful in persuading the U.S. to oppose Kosovo's independence, this would prove to be a huge victory for Islamic extremists.  Then they would say, "You trusted in America, but America has betrayed you!"  In such an event, a deeply disillusioned population would be ripe for Islamist propaganda.

 Already the publicity arising from this case has resulted in serious threats against evangelical believers here in Kosovo.  Mr. Robertson, you can be absolutely certain that if you align yourself with Bishop Artemije's agenda, your brothers and sisters in Christ here in Kosovo will pay a very high price .  We plead with you in the name of Jesus not to give ammunition to the enemies of the Gospel!

 God bless you

 Mark Orfila, a friend and missionary with the Assemblies of God, drafted the letter.  There will be a public press-release forthcoming later in the week.