PEACE I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Christians were celebrating last month the mystery of faith that Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, was put to death by a military power in an occupied country, and that he overcame death and rose again to bring new life to all who would recognize in his trial and Passion their own judgment and that of the present world order. Throughout this holy period, paradoxically, the nations of the NATO alliance, with their mainly Christian inheritance, waged war unabatedly. It has been an Easter in Europe like none other in recent memory. It has shown that the peace, which the world gives in 1999, is no more certain than the pax romana that Pilate represented on the first Good Friday. Christians may argue among themselves about the necessity or justice of waging war in Kosovo; but they are all bound to accept the truth that it is not within human power unaided to end the Balkan crisis.
NATO’s military engagement with President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian forces, reflecting as it does the organization’s wider ambition to act as the “policeman of Europe,” has had its own logic. Part of that logic is that NATO cannot afford to be defeated or humiliated by this wicked man. NATO’s aim has been to enable the Kosovar Albanians to return to their homes. Given the tactics of the Serbians in disposing their troops close to Kosovar villages, and their superior knowledge of their own territory, it has always been likely that NATO ground troops will at some point be needed to ensure the safety of the Kosovar Albanians. Yet, in America particularly, there has been timorousness about commitment at this level which, although understandable in view of the Vietnam War, has meant that moral rhetoric was not matched by comparable moral conviction.
At press time, there was an announcement from the Serbian side of a ceasefire. Given the untrustworthy character of the Serbian leader, this was being viewed with skepticism by NATO. More significant, however, in the longer term is the skepticism or confidence of the thousands of Kosovar refugees whose future has also been hanging in the balance. Unless they can return to their homes with a reasonable hope for the future, we are faced with a choice between a vast refugee operation in the Balkans (where somehow it must be ensured that neighbouring states are not destabilized), or dispersal of these displaced people around Europe. Neither solution will be cheap or without problems, but in the short term one or the other is as essential as military courage to any resistance to Mr. Milosevic which is “begun, continued and ended” in a Christian spirit.
This article appeared as the editorial comment in the April 9 edition of the Church Times, London, England. Reprinted by permission.