Hatred in a Graveyard

3 January, 2015

Serbian Graveyard. Kosovo. 2009.

Serbian graveyard. Kosovo. 2009.

The nature of hatred; even the dead are despised, unwelcome.

This graveyard is located just outside of Mitrovica, Kosovo. It is a Serbian graveyard. The ethnic Albanians have desecrated the graves of those interred here. The hatred runs so deep that even the dead have no peace.

AMPP was in Kosovo assisting missionaries who work in Priština in adult education and church support. I spoke with some Albanian Kosovars about the ever-present KFOR (Kosovo Force international peacekeepers.) I asked one man when he thought Kosovo would be stabilized enough to allow the NATO peacekeeping force to leave. He stoically replied that they could never leave. If they left, there would be violence.

His reply reminded me of the position of the Church in the world, and I am writing of the Body of Christ, not a religious organization. The Church, vis-à-vis the Holy Spirit, is a peacekeeping force for all humanity. Although the Church has been much maligned as a source of strife, it actually its presence that keeps the world from a hellish unraveling, for the time being. We do know that this situation is not a permanent situation.

© 2015 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.

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The Journey Forward

1 January, 2010

Railroad tracks, Kaçanik, Kosovo, 2009.

Railroad tracks. Kaçanik, Kosovo. 2009.

We live in the present, and every evening brings an end of a day that will never be relived. Yet, we mark some days as special because they mark more than just the end of a single day. The end of December 31, 2009 brought the end of a year and a decade. I wanted a photo in this post that connected the past to the future, and a reminder of the ecclesiastical truism that there is nothing new under the sun.

This set of rails is in the town of Kaçanik, Kosovo. I stood looking down the tracks toward the past, only ten years prior, when 31,000 Albanian refugees fled the Serbian forces evicting them from the country, “getting ‘a free ride to Macedonia’ as a ‘gift from the government’ in exchange for the houses and cars.” They traveled these rails by train and by foot, fleeing for their lives. Thousands never made it, primarily those males aged 13 and up who were of “fighting” age.

Every few years we are shocked anew by atrocities visited upon one people by another. Why do we still look upon these with horror and surprise? We look on with horror because we are amazed at actions of depravity, evil wholly outside our sphere of experience. We look on with surprise because deep down we wish the lie was truth; that man is getting better. Yet, we are continually met face-on with the truth of human nature; as Christians we should not be surprised because human nature is the manifestation of sin nature.

Christians should look at the future with an element of pragmatism. Do not think that everything will be getting any better, but be not concerned with that. Will the economy recover or plummet anew? Will Iran comply with the demands of the west? Will Afghanistan come under control or fall into deadly chaos? Will Russia continue to provoke neighbors in a display of nationalistic machismo? We don’t know, and it’s not that we don’t care, but our outlook does not hinge upon events out of our control. We know that all things are in the total control of our heavenly Father.

Happiness, blessing, fulfillment, contentment –however you want to define it– should be based upon being in that prefect will of God, solely. All other so-called measures of blessing or affliction are really neither. We just meet them with an attitude of openness to God’s leading and purposes, or we grasp and claw at temporal vanity.

So, we wish everyone a happy new year, blessed in the understanding that God has a purpose for us. We continue here in the turbulence that is the human experience because we emissaries of the one, true King. What a blessing it is to need no other thing.

© 2010 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.

Family Blessings, Part IV

12 December, 2009

Serbian Cemetary, Mitrovica, Kosovë, 2009.

Serbian Cemetery. Mitrovica, Kosovo. 2009.

This will seem like an odd photo choice for a Family Blessings post, but you will see how this connects in my mind. You may disagree, but at least you will see my logic (or lack thereof, depending on your assessment.) This photo was taken the week leading to Easter, another holiday strongly associated with family, in Kosovo.

While in Kosovo (also, Kosova or Kosovë) I visited the ancient city of Mitrovica, the flashpoint in several clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, both during the 1999 war and in 2004 when the drowning of a Albanian child in the Ibar river ignited riotous clashes resulting in deaths on both sides of this river that physically and ethnically divides the city.

This Serbian graveyard is located on the Albanian side of the river where Serbs once lived in relative peace among the Albanian population. Now it is merely one more symbol of the ethnic division and hatred in Kosovo. All the gravestones display in Cyrillic script the names of loved ones, family members now gone. Not one of these headstones remains standing, they lie smashed and desecrated among the overgrown roots and grasses. And there they will remain until there comes a time when their family members will be able to right these remembrances of loved ones lost. That is not soon to come.

As I walked through this cemetery, some of the faces etched in fractured marble looked up at me from the dirt while the others lay face down. These were fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. They were essentially no different than those family members who will gather around your table for Christmas. They represent the joyful uncle or the loving grandmother, yet they remain broken and unvisited; the result of ethnic hatred.

So you ask, where is the family blessing that this post heralds? It is in the knowledge that during this time in the west (the U.S., the U.K., etc.) we can peacefully enjoy those with us and remember those who have past . We have the blessing, at this time, of peace here at home. We are not divided by ethnic hatreds and strife. Yes, there are isolated acts of evil, and we do have loved serving selflessly in dangerous areas of war, but few in the west have a personal knowledge of such a hatred that caused them to flee home and belongings in a desperate attempt to avoid murderous mobs, only to return to a razed shell of a home and a divided city. That is foreign and incomprehensible to us.

We have the blessing at this time to enjoy friends and family in a time of domestic peace and security. However, this is not something that should be taken for granted. We should give thanks to God for such a time as this. These placid times will not long endure, they have not in human history and they are foretold to surely end in the future. But, as Christians we don’t live in the past or the future, we live in the security of God’s present blessings and should give thanks.

While visiting Mitrovica, I asked my Albanian driver when UNMIK and KFOR (the U.N. organizations set in place to keep peace in Kosovo) would be able to leave. He answered, “Never. If the U.N. leaves, there will be war.” Clearly, there is no political solution to the ethnic strife in Kosovo. The only real solution is a spiritual one, and that is not a solution the U.N. is able to offer.

© 2009 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.