(BWA) Bekim Beka, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church in Prishtina, Kosovo, has asked Baptists around the world to pray for the ethnic fighting that has erupted there with 22 people killed and more than 500 injured.Started with help from Baptist World Aid, the relief arm of the Baptist World Alliance, the church serves both as a worship center and a place of relief for refugees caught in the war between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. BWAid also has helped with relief work in Serbia in Novi Sad and Belgrade, where unrest has also broken out.

Already the United Nations has rushed in more than 1,000 troops to augment military which has tried to keep the peace in Kosovo between Albanians since the U.N. took control from Serbia in 1999. Long-simmering tensions remain, however, between Albanians who want their independence in what is an unresolved matter of who will rule that country.

International leaders have called on Serb and Albanian leaders to end the crisis, which threatens their democracy.

The Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Pavle has held a special prayer service and issued an appeal to Serbs to refrain from revenge.

Beka says this current crisis began with the death of three Albanian children in Mitrovica, a region north of Kosovo. It is alleged that they were pushed into the river by Serbs where they died. The next day Albanians organized a mass protest and reports are that Serb houses and an Orthodox church have been burned. Gun battles, fighting and street riots have followed.

Beka says many people from the Christian community met at New Hope to pray and cry out to God, “to pour his grace and his peace to all citizens of Kosovo.”

The Christian leaders have called for prayer and fasting for the next two days for peace and stability in their country, comfort for families who have lost loved ones, for wisdom and direction for the authorities and above all for God’s love to dwell in the hearts of the people.

Zelimir and Branka Srnec who direct the work at Tabitha expressed shock that “there is such negative power which is ready to destroy lives and peace.”

“We need encouragement that we do not think what might happen, but that we can encourage people for peace,” Srnec said.

Paul Montacute, BWAid director said, “I do hope and pray that this raising of ethnic tensions can be held down before the Balkans are once again caught up in a maelstrom of death and destruction.”

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