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European Baptist Federation committee issues statement on Kosovo crisis

WROCLAW, Poland (BP)–A five-paragraph statement on the crisis surrounding Kosovo — noting that Christians can help address “root causes of ancient conflict” — was adopted by the European Baptist Federation’s executive committee during its April 8-11 meeting in Wroclaw, Poland.
The concluding paragraph notes: “We know that any long term solution in the Balkans will depend on tackling the root causes of ancient conflict and we encourage Baptist Christians to recognize the significant contribution which can be made by the Church of Jesus Christ in the process of peace and reconciliation.”
The statement carried no specific call for a cessation of U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslav Serbia over its “ethnic cleansing” of ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo province, in centuries-old tensions between followers of Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam in the region.
As of April 12, more than 630,000 Kosovar Albanians have fled to other European countries or have been displaced in Kosovo during the crisis, according to United Nations estimates.
The other paragraphs of the EBF executive committee statement note:
“We have heard with deep concern of the desperate plight of Baptist congregations caught up in the military conflict in Serbia and Kosovo and the escalating humanitarian crisis in the surrounding region.
“We have remembered our brothers and sisters in intercessory prayer and grieve with them at the tragic loss of life, the helpless plight of thousands of refugees and the devastating destruction of homes and churches.
“We have also recognized the front line mercy ministries of our Baptist congregations in Albania and Macedonia as they join with the Aid Agencies in meeting the manifold needs of the Kosovan refugees.
“It is our earnest plea to the member bodies of the EBF that whatever our political or ethnic affiliations, we seek in all situations to express that deeper unity of the Body of Christ which transcends all human organizations and join with all those who are praying for a just and peaceful conclusion to the immediate conflict and contributing to the immediate and long-term assistance for the victims.”
In other business, the EBF executive committee canceled the EBF Congress planned July 20-25 in Wroclaw, Poland, after reports from EBF’s member unions indicated a low attendance that would result in a significant financial deficit. Registrations from both the West and East have been affected by the hostilities in the Balkan area of Europe, it was reported.
. As of April 8, there were 201 registered for the congress, and a survey of the Baptist unions in the EBF resulted in a projected attendance of 1,300. An attendance of 3,800 had been needed to provide enough revenue to cover congress expenses.
Given the registration estimated, a deficit of approximately $90.000 was predicted. The local arrangements committee in Wroclaw informed the executive committee that a delay in the decision to cancel the congress would result in a large financial loss due to penalty payments, so an immediate decision was necessary.
The EBF Council’s annual meeting has been rescheduled to Sept. 23-26 in Hamburg, Germany. The council meeting had been scheduled for the days immediately preceding the now-canceled July congress.
The council meeting will feature several major EBF events: a celebration of the 50th anniversary of EBF; a farewell tribute to General Secretary Karl Heinz Walter, who is retiring in fall of 1999; installation of incoming General Secretary Theo Angelov of Bulgaria; the conclusion of the two-year term of President David Coffey of Great Britain; and the beginning of the term for incoming President Ole Jorgensen of Denmark.
The next meeting of the EBF executive committee will be Sept. 22-23 in Hamburg.

Reported by Martha Skelton.