Letter to The Economist, March 25, 1998

March 25, 1998

Letters to the Editor
The Economist
25 St James's Street
London SW1A 1HG
United Kingdom

To the Editor:

Your March 14th article, "Why the Orthodox are heterodox", accuses Greek newspapers of inadequately reporting Serb atrocities and criticizes the Greek government for "looking the other way" when businessmen busted sanctions against Serbia. Yet The Economist should heed the familiar admonition against throwing stones in glass houses.

The western press has rarely mentioned that the present Croatian leadership has used the flag and symbols of the fascist Ustashe regime, which slaughtered 700,000 Serbs during W.W.II, or that Serbian civilians themselves had been ethnically cleansed by the tens of thousands during the course of the war. Premature recognition of Slovenia and Croatia by Germany and the U.S. in furtherance of narrow, self-serving interests has been identified by many as the true culprit for the war, more so than any real or imagined bloodlust by the Serbs.

Moreover, associating Eastern Orthodoxy with the Milosevic regime is irresponsible and misinformed. In March of 1992 at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the hierarchs of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, with the participation of Serbian Patriarch Pavle, condemned the Milosevic regime for its exploitation of religious sentiment in pursuit of national or political goals. Two years later a conference was hosted in the Phanar by Patriarch Bartholomeos in which Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish leaders denounced the atrocities committed in Yugoslavia. In Belgrade itself, Serbian Patriarch Pavle has for years condemned the Bosnian conflict as "the devil's war", and most recently supported the pro-democracy demonstrators in Belgrade, while condemning the use of force against Albanians in Kosovo.

It was the West that spawned the post-war cycle of international lawlessness in that part of the world when it acquiesced to Turkey’s brutal 1974 invasion of Cyprus and its continuing occupation of almost 40% of that island-nation. Many examples of outrages cited by the west in Yugoslavia have parallels to those suffered by Greeks. The 300,000 Greeks of Northern Epirus in Albania have been subjected to pogroms, imprisonment and severe discrimination, yet, unlike Kosovo's Albanians, receive little publicity. Likewise, the Greek minority of Turkey has been virtually eliminated over the past forty five years with little protest from western governments.

The danger to preserving the delicate peace in the region does not stem from any failure by the small democracy of the Greeks--themselves repeatedly victimized by transgressions of international law--to recognize Serbian misdeeds, but from the failure of the West to confront the wrongdoing of others.

It is the West’s abject failure to heed Serbian fears, rooted in the memory of their own wartime genocide at the hands of Croatian and Bosnian Muslim collaborationists, that led to Serbian militancy in the secessionist regions of ex-Yugoslavia. Now, once again, it is the West’s disregard of Serbian memories of pogroms perpetrated by communist-backed Albanians--which drove out the Serbian majority in Kosovo during the 1970’s--coupled with the West’s dismissal of legitimate Serbian concerns about militant Albanian secessionists that threatens to engulf the region in war once more.

Theodore G. Karakostas

Milton, MA

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