"You police when you are too late"

International | Interview: Theologian argues for greater Western involvement

Issue: "Parable of the perjurer," Jan. 9, 1999

Peter Kuzmic is head of Evangelical Seminary at Osijek, Croatia, and a freelance diplomat. A native Slovenian who has lived in both Bosnia and Serbia and is now a Croat citizen, he has used his background to span ethnic divides in the war-torn former Yugoslavia, and his Reformed theology to combat political and philosophical differences underlying Europe's worst conflict since World War II. He also teaches part-time at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Boston, dividing his time between East and West. Mr. Kuzmic spoke to WORLD after a four-month tour of Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, where he spent his time among former seminary students and Albanian friends who, he says, "face mortal danger" and need help "simply to survive." What is the most important thing for Christians in this country to know and understand about what faces the Balkans? I see many people, Christians included, who are so preoccupied with themselves, and they forget that we serve a global God and an international fellowship of the redeemed. We need to pray intelligently and give intelligently. What do you think of international relief and development efforts? Are they acting responsibly and charitably, or preying on our ignorance and their misery? There is justified concern about the self-perpetuating, bureaucratic mentality that creeps into Christian relief organizations and UN-based agencies. There is a need for greater creativity, more effective field work, and more consistent Christian testimony among them. There is a need for scrutiny in this country because there is a self-protective umbrella among national agencies that work with the UN agencies and Western groups when it comes to areas of bureaucracy and expensive overhead. Since Kosovo is the area we hear about most, does that mean that other troubled areas of the Balkans-Sarajevo and Mostar, for example-are on the mend? The American media do not focus attention beyond the tragic and spectacular. But these things do not go away overnight. Economic recovery is very slow. In Sarajevo, young people are out walking downtown, but most have no employment. There is no major rebuilding, contrary to the press releases of many NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and relief organizations. As [Bosnian leader Alija] Izetbegovic has admitted, the Dayton agreement represents a marriage of necessity, not a marriage of love. Does this mean that the international police-in this case, the UN and NATO with its U.S. contingent-have failed? The United States has failed to define a coherent post-Cold War strategy. So its policies overseas are episodic and reactive, inconsistent, particularly in the Muslim world, like Iraq, and including Bosnia. You will have other Milosevices and Saddam Husseins where there is U.S. inconsistency to exploit. But the point is not policing the world. You police when you are too late. I am talking about the three imperatives for any coherent foreign policy: clarity of vision, moral conviction, and political will-the ability to act when most appropriate. In the end, the United States is the only power that can intervene and stop dictators. In Bosnia, the United States has left it to Europe. Europe is not a unified giant. There is no leadership in Europe. What are the key issues facing the church? Apart from the security and political issues we've discussed, there is disturbing discrimination directed toward evangelicals. Serbian Orthodox dominate and are now discriminating against evangelicals. For example, one former Ocijek seminary student was physically attacked in Novi Sad recently and prohibited from holding worship services. It is a religious liberty issue I would hope could be addressed. It is also a hindrance to developing democracy. We need a dialogue with our Orthodox friends. They share many of our creeds and doctrinal positions and are not giving in to Western liberal activism. So they need to be challenged to treat evangelicals fairly. They need to see evangelicals as something other than a national intrusion.

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