|VIEWS FROM THE PULPIT|
April 12, 1999
As Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter last Sunday, religious leaders offered differing views of NATO's strikes against Yugoslavia. Betty Ann Bowser looks at some of the messages coming from Denver's pulpits.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The religious services were in Denver, but the thoughts were thousands of miles away, in the war zones of Kosovo and Yugoslavia.
METROPOLITAN ISAIAH: To see Orthodox Christians being killed for no other reason than to punish one person, this evening, we have an obligation to pray for them as well as for ourselves.
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: Today we witness what our government is doing, together with the governments of NATO, and they're doing it because they would like to prevent another Holocaust.
MUSLIM LEADER: This is our war. Our people are being killed. You know, in the media, they call them ethnic Albanians to hide the fact that they are Muslims. They are Muslims above being ethnic Albanians. The people in Kosovo are Muslims. They're not just ethnic Albanians.
|Bombing on Orthodox Christianity's holiest day.|
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The bombing attacks on Yugoslavia and Kosovo have been justified by President Clinton and NATO leaders on moral grounds. (Choir singing) But America's religious leaders are not united on the morality of the bombing. Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Church, which is closely related to the Serbian Orthodox Church, was appalled that the bombing was not suspended over the weekend while the Greek and Serbian orthodox world celebrated their Easter Sunday.
METROPOLITAN ISAIAH, Greek Orthodox Church: I think it's an indictment on how Western Europeans and Americans celebrate Easter. If Easter is the resurrection of Christ from the dead, why are we killing people on this day? It doesn't -- it's ludicrous. It doesn't make sense.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Metropolitan says Americans gave up too quickly on diplomacy.
METROPOLITAN ISAIAH: I have to base myself on my religious teachings and principles. When someone asks the Lord Jesus Christ, "How many times should I forgive my brother?" The Lord said 70 and seven times. Now, we know from Holy Scripture that seven symbolizes always, and so when he said 70 and seven, obviously the Lord meant again and again. So I don't believe there should be an end to attempts to resolve problems diplomatically. We are intellectual human beings. Our identity is to converse with one another and try to understand one another, and we're not doing enough of it. (Choir singing)
BETTY ANN BOWSER: At the Macedonia Baptist Church, which has many military families, Reverend Paul Martin feels the war may take a heavy personal toll on his congregation. He's also against the bombing.
REV. PAUL MARTIN, Macedonia Baptist Church: I believe that we must, from a religious vantage point, we are obligated to pursue all methods of peaceful resolution before we take up the sword. As a pastor of a church, I believe that the last possible involvement would be a warring involvement or a military action. I believe that there are many ways to peace, and I believe the killing of people, the bombing of people, is an extremely last -- an extreme last movement. It is radical surgery.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Still, Martin is troubled by what he sees as ties between the plight of Albanian refugees and American slaves.
REV. PAUL MARTIN: Reminds me of the pain of slavery, where you and I know our own history, the millions of Africans uprooted from their homelands, no more different than the ethnic Albanians.
PERSON IN CONGREGATION: Oh, yes.
REV. PAUL MARTIN: In our own history, this was one of the strong tenets of the slavery movement; very painful to people when they can't find their relatives, they can't find their families. This is a way of breaking down the -- well, I can say the mental and spiritual attitude of people, when you destroy their families.
|Preventing another Holocaust.|
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER, Temple Emanuel: This ark is to the best of our knowledge is the only ark in the western world that has survived the Holocaust.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: This ark at Temple Emanuel is special for congregants, because, Rabbi Steven Foster says, it is the only surviving ark from Nazi-occupied Europe. He said it stands as an eerie reminder of past acts of genocide.
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: I think Jews understand that we are replaying history. It's not six million. It doesn't matter how many it is. It is the ethnically -- or trying to ethnically cleanse a society of a group of people because of their religion, because of their ethnicity, and that is -- touches real close to home for us. So I don't know of any Jew who wouldn't be supporting what the United States and what NATO is trying to do.
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: Would that the United States or some power had determined in 1938 or 1939 that Hitler had gone too far, then perhaps the Holocaust might never have occurred.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Rabbi says the United States has the right, morally and religiously, to use military force.
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: In my tradition, at least, when a person is being pursued, you have a right. Yes, you have absolute right to save yourself. From a religious perspective, it is also wrong to brutalize someone or to single them out, because we are all created in God's image. That means the ethnic Albanians are also created -- in my tradition, we would say they are created Bitsalem Elohim, "in God's image," and if everyone is created in God's image, then no one has the right to pull them aside, to brutalize them, to kill them, to try to ethnically cleanse any place on earth.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Metropolitan Isaiah, who is spiritual leader to Greek Orthodox people in 12 states, says ethnic cleansing is morally wrong. But the current struggle in Kosovo is not the first time the region has seen tragedy.
METROPOLITAN ISAIAH: Obviously we have forgotten that there have been tens of thousands of displaced people in the last ten years, and they have been forgotten, because probably someone is temporarily or permanently taking care of them, and now we see there's great tragedy before us, and it looks like ethnic cleansing. Obviously it does. Is it? I don't know. I'm confused. I really don't know. I know that there's been a mass exodus. Some has been voluntary. Probably most of it has been forced.
|"The ethnic Albanians are Muslims like us."|
BETTY ANN BOWSER: At the Islamic Center in Denver, worshipers were looking not to history, but to the present reality, because Albanians now being forced out of Kosovo are Muslim. A prayer service issued a call to action.
MUSLIM LEADER: We Muslims should have more of a commitment to defend each other. We Muslims should know that the ethnic Albanians are Muslims like us, and we should be ahead of NATO to fight for the rights of these people, but we're still asleep.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: At Christ Baptist Church, Pastor Kenneth Barnett says Albanian Muslims aren't the only people who have an interest in fighting in Kosovo.
PASTOR KENNETH BARNETT, Christ Baptist Church: In that part of the world, they're still killing each other for religious purposes.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: He says moral countries have no choice but to use force.
PASTOR KENNETH BARNETT: It is the world's business when children and women and freedom is being slaughtered. See, freedom is being slaughtered. Freedom has been paid for from age to age when people were wise enough to say, "Freedom's worth fighting for." We're not fighting for Yugoslavia. We're not fighting against Yugoslavia. Or we're not fighting for those refugees necessarily. We're fighting for freedom. If you don't fight for freedom somewhere, sooner or later you'll fight for freed here.
REV. ELAINE HINNANT, Park Hill Congregational Church: The Bible is often used to justify particular moral stands.
|Violence and Christianity.|
|BETTY ANN BOWSER: Since the bombing in the Balkans began,
the Reverend Elaine Hinnant, who leads a Bible study class at the Park
Hill Congregational Church, has tried to come to terms with violence that
has so often taken place throughout the history of Christianity.
REV. ELAINE HINNANT: I'm still struggling with it, because I think for me, part of the Christian -- well, part of -- an aspect of the Christian message is peace, and I tend -- that's what I feel devoted to. And that to me is a piece of the Christian message, and then here we are reliving the Crucifixion. I mean, not reliving it, but telling the story of the Crucifixion and facing good Friday and Jesus hanging on a cross in which it's violent, and that violence is a part of our Christian story, too. And so it made me re-look at that piece of it.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Like many religious followers, Hinnant is praying for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
REV. ELAINE HINNANT: I so much want resolution without death, and yet I know part of the Christian story is death, and there is resolution. I hate to see the suffering there, and I know that there was suffering prior to NATO. It is a wish, it's hope -- it's a desire -- that we could be in a stance morally where we wouldn't have to use force.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: To that, all the religious leaders we spoke to would say "amen," along with the hope that religion itself can help ease the ongoing suffering.