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Belgrade protesters are demanding democracy

"Belgrade protesters are demanding democracy" Continued...

Issue: "Social Security," Jan. 11, 1997

"He is not interested in moral stances," said former Djindjic prot'g' Dragoljub Micunovic. The two parted ways in 1993 when Mr. Djindjic publicly sided with Serbian nationalists. "We fought bitterly over whether it was correct to have our party embrace Serbian nationalism, something we had all opposed. I rejected this on moral grounds. Djindjic said that if I wanted to pursue morality I was better off in a church."

The Orthodox Church in Serbia has close ties with both the Milosevic government and the Bosnian Serbs. Patriarch Pavle, its leader, enjoys a ministerial-type position within the government and has been known to meet regularly with Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic. As Bosnian Serbs have been cordoned off from controlling certain parts of Bosnia under the Dayton Accords, church support of Mr. Milosevic has drained. If the political tide shifts to Mr. Djindjic, church support may shift as well.

This leaves non-Orthodox Christians, mostly Baptist and Pentecostal evangelicals, in an ambivalent position. The months since the Dayton Accords were signed have allowed them to breathe easier, according to some leaders. Pentecostal pastor Peter Kuzmic, now teaching at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, has reported growing communication efforts between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. Last year he was allowed to preach an evangelistic message at the largest Orthodox church in Belgrade. "This was not possible before Dayton," he said. The present political tension leaves evangelicals unsure how they will be treated either by Mr. Milosevic or a democratic movement grounded in nationalism.

American policymakers are also divided on how to view the changes in Belgrade. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat who attended one of the protests, supports the movement. State Department pragmatists, however, favor the known Milosevic over the unknown Djindjic.

An unidentified senior diplomat was quoted by The New York Times, saying: "Djindjic makes us nervous because, like Milosevic, we are not sure he really believes in anything other than power. Milosevic has a lot of blood on his hands, a lot to answer for, and a lot to cover up. He is easier to pressure and control. He wants to always show us he is making amends."

In contrast, the Heritage Foundation's Jim Hillen said, "The U.S. is far more interested in ensuring a peace facade in Bosnia than it is in seeing democracy triumph in Belgrade."

In December demonstrators burned an American flag in front of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade to protest Washington's perceived partiality toward Mr. Milosevic. It was a potent sign that even freedom lovers have a long way to go in the Balkans.

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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