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100 refugees return to Kosovo with aid from Baptist ministries

WASHINGTON (BP)–One hundred refugees were to return to Kosovo from Hungary on Aug. 12 with the help of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
BWAid is working with Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid), the International Organization for Migration and the Hungarian government to fly the refugees directly from Budapest to Pristina, Kosovo, reported Paul Montacute, BWAid director.
Montacute visited some of the refugees during the week of Aug. 2 in a camp in Bicske, Hungary, where Hungarian Baptists had been assisting them. Montacute said HBAid workers are to accompany the refugees back to Kosovo and are working with Love in Action, an evangelical Kosovar group, to provide food parcels and other essential goods.
Montacute and Sandor Szenczy, HBAid director, in a visit to Kosovo during the week, made arrangements for aiding the refugees with Bekim Beka, the Kosovar Albanian Baptist leader and director of Love in Action.
This group of returnees is the first to be flown directly to the airport in Pristina, Montacute said. Other returnees have been flown to the Skopje airport in the Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia and then faced a difficult three-hour bus journey.
“The returnees’ journey will only begin when they get to Pristina,” Montacute noted. “Until they get to their village, they will have no idea if their house has been damaged and whether they will be able to live there.” Love in Action is ready to provide tents and other equipment to assist returnees and will keep in contact with the returnees in the months ahead, Montacute said.
Visiting in the region around Pristina, Beka showed Montacute and Szenczy many damaged villages. Stopping in one to talk with an elderly Muslim man who was sitting outside his burnt-out home, they saw for themselves the wanton damage caused by one ethnic group against another. “Everything in the house had been smashed and then set alight,” Montacute recounted. “The heat was so intense that glass had melted, and every piece of wood from the floor to the rafters was now just charcoal. The neighboring houses were the same, and in the garden of one was an unexploded mine and also an abandoned missile launcher.
“It was astounding to see the results of such hatred,” Montacute continued. “It will take a long time for people to rebuild their homes, but longer to rebuild their lives.”
BWAid, the European Baptist Federation and other Baptist groups already have been providing support for Love in Action, and visits were made to a warehouse where food packages were being put together into family packs. With little if any harvest this year in Kosovo, Beka anticipates that food supplies will probably be needed throughout the coming winter until the summer of 2000. In addition, so much of the infrastructure of Kosovo has also been destroyed either by NATO bombing, ethnic cleansing and the absence of so many people for so long.
“Love in Action only started its work on July 3 and yet has already delivered more than 50 tons of food, clothes and hygienic goods in six villages, hospitals and old people’s homes,” Montacute said. A large warehouse is being used to receive bulk donations of food and goods that are then being repackaged into individual and family parcels, he said.
As well as supporting the work of Love in Action in Pristina, Baptists are also helping in the cities of Pec and Gjakova. In both places, contact is being maintained with many returnees assisted by Baptists in Albania.
“We need the support of the worldwide Baptist family” for efforts to assist the refugees and the ministries of Love in Action, Montacute urged. Further information about BWAid efforts in behalf of the refugees or for routing donations to the effort can be obtained by phoning the BWA at (703) 790-8980.