Bishop of Galveston-Houston
June 10, 1999
We welcome the end of the Kosovo conflict, which has brought so much suffering to so many. We hope that this settlement marks the first step toward Pope John Paul II's vision of a more just and peaceful future for the Balkans. As the Holy Father said last week, "Only justice, dialogue and reconciliation will enable this part of Europe to be -- at last and always -- a place where diversity does not mean confrontation but mutual enrichment."
The settlement includes a cessation of hostilities, prompt withdrawal of all Yugoslav forces, suspension of the NATO bombing campaign, and the safe return of all refugees under international military protection organized under U.N. auspices. Since the beginning of this conflict, we have insisted that the right of refugees to return in safety should be an essential part of any interim solution and final settlement. We urge that no effort be spared in assisting the return of refugees and displaced persons, given the early onset of winter in the region. The agreement also calls for the interim U.N. administration of Kosovo, restoration of a generous measure of self-government within the context of Serbia and Yugoslavia with firm guarantees of minority rights, as well as a substantial program of reconstruction and development for the entire region. If implemented, these measures would go a long way toward satisfying the minimum conditions for a just peace.
We urge all sides to implement this agreement without delay. Successful implementation of this agreement requires not only the rapid return of Kosovar refugees and displaced persons, but also the safeguarding of the rights of the Serb minority. Now is the time to begin healing the wounds suffered by all the victims of this conflict, Serbs and Albanians; Muslims, Orthodox and other Christians as well. We earnestly pray that the time has come for the international community and those in the region to begin the urgent tasks of reconstruction, reconciliation and restoration of right relationships among the peoples of the region.