News Articles

BWA focuses on Kosovo for relief aid, reconciliation

DRESDEN, Germany (BP)–The Baptist World Alliance General Council approved an additional $250,000 in relief assistance for Kosovo and urged Baptists in the Balkans and in member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to work for reconciliation.
The actions were taken during the council’s July 11-17 annual meeting in Dresden, Germany.
More than $750,000 already has been sent through Baptist World Aid and the European Baptist Federation for relief programs in Albania and Macedonia.
A resolution on the Balkans praised BWAid and other Baptist agencies for their relief work. Karl Heinz Walter, EBF general secretary, noted Baptists had begun to help refugees in the war at least two weeks before the Red Cross arrived on the scene.
Paul Montacute, director of BWAid, told the council “twice as much money is needed to help in winterizing homes [and] provide immediate food and other essential supplies at least for a year.
“We are again calling on the world family of Baptists to provide the funds so that Balkan Baptists can provide the Christian love and care needed in this tragic situation, Montacute said.
Reconciliation is needed in even greater supply to overcome long-standing ethnic rivalries, Walter said.
“If there is not the power to overcome hatred, the spirit of revenge will prevail,” Walter said. “We must help people to show love and overcome hatred in a culture where blood revenge is part of the culture.”
The council’s Balkans statement praised God that the war has ended but recognized “the horrific trauma” the conflict had caused in the region. It asked Baptists “to pursue prayerfully and actively lasting reconciliation that demonstrates through practical applications the bond of Christian unity we share as the body of Christ.”
Speaking of the effect of the bombing in his country, Avram Dega, general secretary of the Union of Baptist Churches in Serbia, said, “The war has made it more difficult to be a Baptist. Only by God’s grace we were protected.” He said many people believed the war was a “Baptist war” because the president of the United States is a Baptist.
Dega said people have been scattered by the war, with many Serbian refugees flooding into the country from Kosovo, and “we have become very poor.” The Baptist union’s seminary was among the scores of buildings damaged in the bombing.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ does unite,” Dega said. “Four years ago, in Bosnia, I baptized new believers that included a Serbian Orthodox, Croatian Muslim and an Orthodox believer.”
Theodor Angelov, president of the Baptist Union of Bulgaria, said, “What Baptists are doing in the region is excellent and setting an example,” while Denton Lotz, BWA general secretary, said, “It is this example of unity in Christ that Baptists must show.”
Concerning racism and ethnic strife globally, the council endorsed a plan to name the first 10 years of the new decade, “A Decade of Racial Justice,” and adopted the Atlanta Declaration on Racism and Ethnic Conflict, issued after a BWA-sponsored conference on global racism and ethnic and tribal conflict in Atlanta last January.
Lotz, who led the conference, said, “In Jesus Christ we are one; this is the message for the BWA. When people meet us, they must meet a Christ-centric, evangelical people who are also against racism and ethnic conflict.”
Heads of Baptist missionary agencies who form the council’s international mission secretaries group also addressed the issues of tribal and ethnic conflict and racism.
In a statement to the council, John Sundquist, head of the Board of International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches USA, spoke on behalf of the group that includes heads of major mission organizations in North America and Europe.
In response to the Atlanta Declaration, the mission leaders promised to “constantly seek and discover ways” to include the entire Baptist family in responding to God’s call to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world.
Sundquist said the mission leaders had endorsed the reaching of unevangelized people groups as a new BWA missions emphasis, a strategy outlined by Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. “This new insight has released a whole new energy and created a vision that has captured the heart of God’s people around the world,” Sundquist said, noting, however, that the directors of the mission agencies agreed to be careful not to do anything that might lead to new ethnic conflict.

    About the Author

  • Wendy Ryan