A new set of issues for Christians in Southeastern Europe has arisen, largely as a result of misdirected policies of the Clinton/Albright and successive Washington administrations.
Who are America’s allies in the Balkans?
Comments | Print friendly | Subscribe | Email Us
Believe it or not, Christmas Carols in the Washington Embassy of Romania which, once-upon-a-time, was the instrument of a strident Stalinist-style government that was overthrown in 1990! I say once-upon-a-time because, though not so long ago, it seemed to me like a fairy-tale.
There we were, about seventy invited guests, in the upstairs reception Hall of the Embassy, where a 4-man Brass Quartette from a Romanian Baptist church in Virginia presented a concert of about fifteen traditional western Christmas carols, introduced by their pastor with, as well, greetings from two pastors from Virginia Baptist churches. December 19, 2011 was a memorable evening.
The lone Romanian carol, in which about half of the audience who were native Romanian speakers joined, was deeply moving, especially the two-sentence typical Balkan liturgical refrain.
Though harshly persecuted under the Communist regime, Baptists became the largest Protestant body in Romania, with some of their 1800 churches having membership in excess of 1,000. They number more than 100,000 communicants and are the third largest Baptist body in Europe. In addition there are at least 10,000 Hungarian Baptists in their own nearly 300 Hungarian speaking churches. Other rapidly growing evangelical bodies include Pentecostals, Reformed churches, Adventists, plus various independent groups.
While Christian faith is being secularized and marginalized in much of Western Europe and the United Kingdom, evangelical growth and the revitalization of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism in countries where persecution under Communism was severe is striking, especially among younger members of those populations who are turning away from the cynicism and despair of their elders.
But now a new set of issues for Christians in Southeastern Europe has arisen, largely as a result of misdirected policies of the Clinton/Albright and successive Washington administrations.
These concern the impact revitalized Christian faith has on the relations between Christians and large numbers of Muslims who are migrating into Southeastern Europe. What is unfolding is not pleasant. Islamic militants who gain ascendancy, with assistance from the West, as in Bosnia and Kosovo, are persecuting Christians and destroying hundreds of landmark Christian churches, monasteries and other Christian landmarks.
Present lobbying in Washington favors militant Islam. While some officials in the State Department are aware of, and concerned about, the activities of radical Islamists in the Balkans, leadership tends to eschew public rebuke of their atrocities, ignores Christian denominations in the Balkan countries, and slights the Christian heritage of groups the Administration disparages. Christians in the Balkans are given short-shrift by the State Department.
A startling example: On December 14th at the State Department Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, and Atifete Jahjaga, President of Kosovo, signed a Cultural Preservation Agreement, purporting to ensure preservation of the “multi-cultural” heritage of Kosovo in an “inclusive” fashion as the hallmark of stability in a country newly-minted by America. Though she spoke from prepared remarks, the Secretary of State’s stumbling over her words drew the attention of not a few observers.
While generalizing about conserving “cultural heritage,” referencing “Christians, Muslims, Jews,” she added “and Serbs.” That is, Serbs as an afterthought—those pesky Serbs with whom we have to deal but, apparently, not as Christians. What an incredible put-down, in light of the fact that for nearly a thousand years Kosovo has been the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy and that over 90% of Serbs are part of the Orthodox Christian heritage. Furthermore, nothing was said about the desecration and destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and other symbols of the Christian faith in that tiny land where there are more Christian landmarks per square kilometer than anywhere on earth.
For years some in America have pleaded for tolerance, security for Christians who are under daily attack from rifle fire and bombings, and preservation of priceless medieval architecture and works of art. Thomas Melady, former Ambassador to the Vatican, convened a group at the Institute for World Politics, of which I was a part, to publish an appeal for toleration and preservation of the Christian heritage in Kosovo. This was signed by over thirty-five members of Congress, diplomats, scholars and business men and then circulated to members of Congress in June, 2006.
Perhaps the protocol signed by Hillary Clinton will have a desirable effect. Nevertheless, thankfully now, at the end of this year of our Lord 2011, there are signs signaling unease in Congress that our actions in regard to Kosovo and Bosnia have been disingenuous and against America’s own self-interests.
Ironically, the latest sign occurred the day after Hillary Clinton signed the protocol. On December 15, Congressman Dan Burton, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, convened hearings on our Kosovo and Bosnia policies.
Congressman Burton remarked that the unilateral declaration of independence for Kosovo was recognized by America before agreement had been reached by the people living there. Only they could ensure peace and stability in Kosovo, he said.
He and Congressman Ted Poe urged that our administration support investigation of the alleged horrific human organ trafficking in Kosovo in a Council of Europe Report by Dick Marty. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon assured the hearing that America was serious about the Marty Report.
Dana Rohrabacher, once a supporter of Kosovo’s independence, supported recent proposals for the partition of Kosovo in order to ensure the security of non-Muslim populations in Kosovo. Gordon commented that altering borders would affect the unstable situation in Bosnia – a clear indication that imposed political constructs, detached from the will of the peoples concerned, are bound to falter and, likely, to fail.
At bottom in all of this is the centuries old confrontation between stable Christian communities and militant Islamists who, with loads of money from Saudi Arabia, seek to implement Alija Izetbegovic’s vision of a re-Islamicized Southeastern Europe, religiously and politically under Sharia Law. Why is there no outcry over the scores upon scores of defaced and destroyed churches, monasteries, cemeteries and other marks of the Christian faith in Kosovo? Videos of radicals perpetrating hate-filled desecration and destruction are deeply disturbing.
While early steps in Congress to address these matters are encouraging – never before have we engaged in public discussion of these policies – Christian populations in the Balkans are puzzled at the lack of support from America and the West.
Political encroachment and control are the goal; early insistence upon religious tolerance and freedom to propagate Islam are the means to the end. Let America be aware: Islam as a trans-religious, ideological and political force is no friend of democracy or of America and America’s ideals.
“Those Serbs” like “those Jews” in the past has become the received put-down cliché of our times, though we did not do that to Poles or Czechs or Bulgarians when their countries were dominated by cruel dictatorships. It should be borne in mind that the Serbs themselves toppled Milosevic. They have been America’s best allies in the past and are ready again to salute America as the champion of freedom and democracy.
Christian populations in the Balkans are America’s best friends and have been our unfailing allies. Perhaps it is time for the makers of our foreign policy to accept and reaffirm that fact and act upon its strategic importance.