The Common Good
January-February 2001

Good Evening, Liberated Serbia!

by Rose Marie Berger | January-February 2001

Prior to the October 2000 ouster of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, the United States pumped $77 million into the fragile opposition movement

Prior to the October 2000 ouster of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, the United States pumped $77 million into the fragile opposition movement—an attempt to do with ballots what could not be done with bombs: Get rid of Milosevic. U.S. support of pro-democracy movements did not begin in earnest until after the NATO air campaign ended—a bombing campaign that nearly destroyed 15 years of heroic opposition work by religious, peace, labor, and alternative media groups.

The church was perhaps the defining force in Serbia's peaceful revolution. Under the leadership of Patriarch Pavle, the Serbian Orthodox Church slowly and consistently pushed Milosevic to step aside. The day after the election, Pavle officially recognized Vojislav Kostunica as the president-elect of Yugoslavia and encouraged church leaders around the world to do the same.

Ten days after the election—when Milosevic still did not concede defeat and state-run TV played soap operas—a million people stormed the parliament building.

Protestors brought apples for the police. One policeman told a demonstrator, "Don't worry. We won't beat you." She replied, "We won't beat you either, brother." That evening Vojislav Kostunica addressed the crowd: "Good evening, liberated Serbia!"

"Our wish," Kostunica said in a campaign speech, "is to translate the New Testament's message of peace into live in a democratic state, in which the authorities will be in fear of the will of the people, and not vice versa." In order for this to happen, Serbia must repent—for the rape camps at Trnopolje, for the Omarska concentration camp, for the Breadline Massacre in Sarajevo, for running tanks over nonviolent protestors in Pristina, for allowing Milosevic his power.

"I am ready to accept the guilt for all those people who have been killed," Kostunica said. "For what Milosevic had done, and as a Serb, I will take responsibility for many of these crimes." This is a first step in the things that make for peace.

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