Catholic bishop wants more stability for Kosovo

Catholic bishop wants more stability for Kosovo Bishop Dode Gjergji. Photo: Wikipedia

Bonn/Pristina (KNA) The only Catholic bishop in Kosovo would like to see more stability in his country. Political and social tensions still persist 25 years after the NATO mission in the former Yugoslavia, lamented 2 on Friday. The bishop of the Prizren-Pristina diocese blamed Serbian politicians, among others, for this.

However, the 61-year-old cleric admitted that the Orthodox and Catholic churches had not been able to make a major contribution to reconciliation in Kosovo despite all their efforts. “It is still obvious that there is a lack of trust and a fear of the other, a tendency to live in separate communities.”

25 years ago, on 24 March 1999, NATO launched its mission in the former Yugoslavia and bombed targets in Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. This was the first combat mission of the military alliance and also the first combat mission of German troops since 1945. The aim was to end the war in Kosovo. Prior to this, the conflict between Serbs under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic and the Albanian “Kosovo Liberation Army” had escalated, causing massive suffering among the civilian population.

The NATO mission is still controversial today because it was carried out without a UN mandate. The Kosovo war lasted until 10 June 1999 and, according to the Federal Agency for Civic Education, the number of victims varies. The Yugoslav government spoke of 1,200 to 5,700 civilian casualties from the air strikes. Human Rights Watch estimated around 500 civilian deaths. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their towns and villages.

“Without Nato’s intervention, much of what we have today would not have been possible,” said Bishop Dode. He added that the Nato intervention was a response to a humanitarian crisis “and an attempt to restore peace and security not only in Kosovo, but also in the region”. However, this does not mean that everything has changed for the better since then. “Even 25 years after the return of peace, there are still many challenges and problems in Kosovo.”

He would like to see better living conditions for all people in Kosovo with a developed economy, an independent judicial system and equally respected religious, human and ethnic rights for all, said the Catholic priest. “I would also like to see a strong education system that promotes knowledge and cultural diversity. Finally, I would like to see deep international co-operation to support Kosovo on its path to sustainable development and prosperity.”

The Republic of Kosovo is located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula and has a population of around 1.9 million. An estimated 162,000 people live in the capital Pristina. The majority of the country is Muslim, with most people belonging to the Sunni faith. Around three per cent are Catholic and around four per cent are Serbian Orthodox. The population is made up of around 91 per cent Albanians and 4 per cent Serbs.