Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Congratulations and a challenge for Kosova

I called a bunch of my Kosovar friends today. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: "Hey, this is Marku calling from America."
My Kosovar friend: "Hey Mark! How are you?"
Me: "Well, I'm ok but to tell the truth I'm pretty angry at you!"
My Kosovar friend: "Really? Why?"
My: "I waited 10 years with you guys for this moment, and you couldn't even wait another 4 months till I come back so we could celebrate it together!"
(This followed by racous laughter from my Kosovar friend.)

This really is a bittersweet moment for me. I wish I could have been there to share the joy with the people I love. I want to take this moment to publicly congratulate my Kosovar friends -- and also to issue them a challenge.

It is often said, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." (a slight misquote of George Santayana). From my experience in the Balkans, it sometimes seems that it's the remembering that dooms people to repeat history. History is often rehearsed in such a way as to stoke the fires of hatred and to insure that the current generation of victims will become the future generation of perpetrators.

(Not that the Balkans has a lock on this kind of thing. I often wonder if there isn't a similar sentiment behind the "9-11 - We won't forget" bumperstickers.)

Nevertheless, I think that remembering is important. In the Bible, we read how the people of Israel suffered for 400 years as slaves in Egypt. When God set them free through Moses (Hazreti Musa), He commanded them to remember their slavery so that they who had once been oppressed would never become oppressors.

I wish to say to my Kosovar brothers, "Please do not allow yourselves to become what you hate. You have an opportunity to create a state where everyone -- Serbs, Gypsies, Turks, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Orthodox can experience justice, peace, and freedom. You know what it is like to be refugees; please don't force other people to flee their homes. You know what it is like to be treated with contempt; please treat the minorities among you with respect. You know what it is like to lose loved ones; please don't make more widows and orphans."

I hope I don't sound condescending. I know that we Americans have our own ugly history and our own challenges in the present. I will keep praying for God's blessings to flow through Kosova like the rivers flow down from the Albanian Alps to water the Plain of Dukajgin. I hope to be back among you this summer.

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