I do have a few quibbles with his account, however. I do not want to push them too far, for the fact remains that his observations are based on his personal experience on the ground in Kosovo, while my opinions come from following events from afar. That said, I submit the following reservations:
- The imposition of an "independent" Kosovo is a diplomatic and foreign policy disaster in the making, the full implications of which are only just beginning to play out.
- The tone of the article is decidedly pro-Albanian in tone. There is nothing wrong with that, but the first section of the story could have been just as easily put out by the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce.
- I would posit that there is no such thing as "Albanian Kosovars." There are Albanians who live in Kosovo.
- How do you write a lengthy article about Kosovo and not mention 1389? This would be like writing a comparable piece on Constantinople and not mentioning 1453.
- In general, short-shrift is given to the historical claims of Serbia, while emphasizing the present reality of Albanian rule there.
Again, I am not really criticizing Fr. Patrick. This is an important subject, and one that is seldom discussed dispassionately. So, I appreciate his calm and measured contribution.
Fr. Patrick ends on a strong note, emphasizing two major considerations. First, he brings the subject of abortion to the forefront of the discussion. Secular Serbs under communism had a very high abortion rate, a tragedy that continues even today. Albanians have traditionally rejected birth control and abortion helping flip the region from majority Serbian to majority Albanian in the last half of the 20th century (that of course, and massive immigration from Albania proper.) Fr. Patrick contends that this weakens the moral high ground that the Serbians might assume in their arguments for the region. As he states, it is a spiritual and moral failure of the culture, insufficiently addressed from the pulpit and in pastoral pedagogy.
Second, Fr. Patrick finds hope in the approach of the monks at the beleaguered Decani Monastery, and their concern for the evangelization of Kosovo.
There is another part of the Church in Kosovo, however, which has already started preparing for the spread of the gospel to the rest of the region. These people are less concerned that Kosovo should become Serbian than that Kosovo as a whole should become Christian.
It seemed to me that the monks of Decani, some of whom have learned to speak Albanian, form something of a vanguard in this forward-looking movement. Although they insisted on the legitimacy of Serbia’s political claims in the region and showed not the slightest enthusiasm for Kosovo independence, the Decani monks manifested a greater interest in the salvation of souls—including Albanian souls.
Indeed, even during the war, the monastery of Decani was a beacon of hope and renewal. When hostile Albanians launched a mortar attack against the monastery, and bombs from American planes (evidently misdirected on purpose!) fell on the monastery’s apple orchard, the monks of Decani went on with their traditional routine: chanting the Psalms and hymnody in church, painting icons, studying the Bible, tilling fields, gathering honey, making cheese and butter, and so on.
And especially these monks loved their neighbors, regardless of race or religion. When the army sent from Yugoslavia was killing and pillaging all through the region, the monks of Decani received the fleeing Muslims and other Albanians into their cloister to protect them. These monks—never more than thirty in number, I think—fed the hungry and housed the homeless. When cursed, they blessed. Slapped on one cheek, they turned the other. That is to say, they did what Christians are supposed to do in the hour of the gospel’s testing. They placed the gospel first. If the spirit of the Decani monastery prevails in the Orthodox Church in Kosovo, I believe nothing is to be feared about the region’s future.
Fr. Patrick notes that the salvation of souls in Kosovo--Albanian and Serbian alike--is the proper concern of the Church, not the restoration of Serbian sovereignty there.
The missionary interests of the church are not co-terminal with the national aims of Serbia, nor is the political future of Kosovo as important—to God, the Lord of history—as the eternal salvation of those who live there.
And I tend to agree that this should be our guiding sentiment in this troubled region.