OF RELIGION FOR PEACE
May 19, 2004
Major General Virgil L. Packett II
Commander of Stabilization Force
Dear Major General Packett:
As Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (Religions for Peace), the largest worldwide coalition of major religions committed to collaborative action for peace, I would like to take this opportunity to address the unfortunate events that took place at the Serbian Orthodox Parish in Pale last month.
Clearly all people of faith believe that indicted war criminals should be captured and brought to justice for the crimes they committed. Followers of the Serbian Orthodox Church are no different and have stated so publicly and offered their assistance to the international community in relevant endeavours. The Serbian Orthodox Church has also remained an adamant defender of democracy and human rights during an extremely difficult period in their history.
The brutal raid on the Parish of Archpriest Jeremija Starovlah which resulted in severe injury to himself and his son was an act of violence which Religions for Peace condemns because of the lack of sensitivity shown to the Church. The Serbian Orthodox Church claims to have instructed SFOR to inform the Parish upon their acrival in order to protect the sanctity of the Church and safety of her people. Prior to the April 1, 2004 raid, the Archpriest assured SFOR that their doors are always open to the military, but requested that these inspections be done in a proper and peaceful manner. These reasonable requests were ignored on April 1 and unfortunately resulted in serious injury and damage of their Parish.
The international community must work together with the Serbian Orthodox Church in order to accomplish the goals which both parties recognize as important for justice, reconciliation and peace.
With respect, for your High Office, I remain
Dr. William F. Vendley