THE SPEECH OF THE PRESIDENT OF KOSOVO AT THE OPENING OF THE INTERFAITH CONFERENCE IN PEJA

I am pleased to welcome you to Kosovo, representatives of different religions in Kosovo and around the world, scholars and people of good will, who have come together to foster and promote multiculturalism, ecumenical dialogue, a culture of peaceful coexistence and reconciliation.

Distinguished leaders of the Religious Communities – Bishop Gjergji, Mufti Ternava, Bishop Teodosije, Mr. Krasniqi and Mr. Demiri.

Distinguished leaders and representatives of Religious communities in the Region and beyond,

Dear representative of the institutions of Kosova,

Dear, Ambassadors and representatives of Diplomatic Mission in Kosova,

Distinguished guests,

Dear conference participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you to Kosovo, representatives of different religions in Kosovo and around the world, scholars and people of good will, who have come together to foster and promote multiculturalism, ecumenical dialogue, a culture of peaceful coexistence and reconciliation.

This Interfaith Conference that is being held in Peja as part of Kosovo’s Week of Tolerance, is our joint and important effort to highlight by example that a meaningful dialogue that strengthens peace, mutual respect and understanding between different communities is indeed possible.

We do not need to look very far for examples. As many of the faith representatives present here will testify, Kosovo holds a unique tradition of interfaith tolerance.

This tradition is expressed in the architectural values, in our cultural heritage, in the objects of worship and is a testament that we lived together for centuries.

As a society, we have a tradition in preserving our unique heritage that we consider as our common wealth.

This tradition is also deeply embedded in our oral history, in the stories of orthodox monasteries protected by Albanian clans against the Ottoman occupation. Of feasts during religious rites where everybody – Christians and Muslims –were invited to jointly celebrate. Of exchange of neighborly visits for respective holidays to show our respect for each other’s religious beliefs.

In our daily life we were always side by side, and religious affiliation was a matter of determination, a private but also a societal affair that brought the communities together. 

Not so long ago, in Kosovo’s recent history, we were engulfed in war and conflict. The war has left many deep scars, and many unresolved issues, including the need to rebuild the bonds that hold the fabric of our society together and to address the distrust that has been sown among us.

As leaders of Kosovo, we have approached this task of rebuilding our bonds with the view that our coexistence is much longer than our period of disagreement, that peace and stability cannot be built under threat and duress, that economic prosperity and the values and ideals of democracy may not come to life without cessation of animosities.
 
And this cannot happen without a historic reconciliation between the countries in the region - not forgetting the history and the sacrifice of many generations for the protection of the freedom – but with the promise that the war must never replace dialogue and that the bitter past, full of victims and suffering, must never be repeated.

We are vigorously trying to change the course of our recent history, to leave hatred behind us, together with the loss and suffering that have touched the lives of many of us.

This is not an easy task, as many wounds still remain open and the memory of the sufferings is still fresh. Also, justice has not been fully served.

But, the dialogue and building of mutual trust remain the only option in order to compel each and every one of us to take upon the responsibilities we have toward each other and to behave responsibly with our neighbours.
 
It is this deep conviction that does not allow us to pass the burden of the old animosities to the younger generations and it is this conviction that compels us to rebuild the bonds between our different communities.

In this endeavour, religious leaders here in Kosovo have much to contribute.

Dear conference participants,
Honorable guests,

Kosovo’s religious, cultural and ethnic diversity is our greatest value. Protecting the rights of all citizens has been ingrained in our Constitution. Tolerance and peaceful coexistence are strengthened as a conviction and a belief in our country.

Today, we are building a nation dedicated to peace and understanding, fostering the coexistence of cultures and beliefs.  We are dedicated to laying the foundation for a sustainable future for all of our citizens. We want to leave behind a prosperous country, without traces of hatred and the vestiges of past disputes for coming generations. We are determined to give our joint future a different outlook -- one of progress and mutual respect.

We are building a society characterized by peace and tolerance -- tolerance between the people of Kosovo as well as tolerance among the citizens of different communities and religions that will gain back the shaken trust between each other. We are committed and determined to peace and freedom.

We are building a multicultural society, a strong and prosperous state, for every citizen of our country, a nation where religions are considered our greatest wealth, where religious freedom is our main value.

Thank you.