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Can pacifists do anything to stop the war in Yugoslavia?

The only telephone number I know by heart outside Yugoslavia is the War Resisters’ International office in London. This is for a very simple reason: there is always somebody there to receive and spread information, to listen and to understand, to help by giving information we need, and to talk as friends.

Our analysis, reports, warnings about the situation, and questions are always first sent to WRI. Again for a simple reason: the efficiency and the high level of ability to understand.

A book could be written about the role that WRI has played for the peace movement in Slovenia. In the late ’70s WRI inspired the few pacifists in Ljubljana with the mere fact that pacifists exist in a network all over the world. In the early ’80s it supported our struggle for the right to Conscientious Objection in Yugoslavia, a struggle which recently met success in Slovenia. The WRI has contributed moral support, energy, arguments, background information, inspiration and further contacts for our activity: be it concerning the CO issue, information on the history and practice of nonviolence, peace education, demilitarisation, women and militarism and North/South relations.

WRI is always on duty — if not in the office, by having someone on the spot. Even when everybody else thinks nothing can be done — like in Croatia today — WRI does something. It stays with us.

Marko Hren

Movement for Culture of Peace and Nonviolence, Ljubljana

Elected member of WRI Council

More about WRI’s current work on Yugoslavia

Making peace in Yugoslavia may seem to be both an urgent necessity and a fairly hopeless endeavour. Yet War Resisters’ International has not hesitated to get involved with the anti-war groups emerging in the republics of Yugoslavia. We have made it a priority to support the work of activists like Marko and the nonviolent movements in every republic.

  • The first thing WRI offers is contact. When peace centres are being attacked, when peaceworkers are vilified as `traitors’ and threatened, when anti-war activists are pressganged and sent to the front, this contact is priceless. And when telephone connections between the republics have been disrupted, WRI is playing a vital role in keeping communication open between the republics.
  • WRI members have travelled to meet the anti-war movements. Coordinator Howard Clark’s visit strengthened communication lines and advanced plans for future cooperation. Executive member Christine Schweitzer organised conflict resolution and nonviolence training workshops. Jean De Wandelaer, convenor of WRI’s Latin American working group, shared relevant parts of his experiences in El Salvador and Guatemala.
  • The understanding gained through these visits is being spread throughout the movement, especially via Peace News, co-published by WRI since June 1990. Even before the war began, Peace News was informing its readers of the dangers and the complexities of this situation. Since then, it has provided extensive coverage of nonviolent actions and war resistance in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Serbia. Statements from those movements have been translated and circulated in many of our Sections.
  • WRI and its affiliates are helping war resisters and others who go into exile because of their anti-war stands: helping them both to stay in their country of exile and to contact other peace-minded exiles from the various republics of Yugoslavia.

  • The most pressing need of people in Yugoslavia is for a ceasefire. This week, WRI has been the key link in collecting signatures for a Proposal to Stop the War signed by academic and cultural figures from every part of Yugoslavia. This non-governmental statement could make a significant impact in reversing the tide of war.

    Even once a ceasefire is achieved, the conflicts will not go away. WRI is therefore helping to set up meetings between anti-war campaigners in Yugoslavia and other countries to help develop strategy and to build international cooperation. In particular, WRI has plans to link Croatian and Bosnian peaceworkers with anti-sectarian community organisers in Northern Ireland, people with decades of experience in nonviolent work on community conflict.

    WRI does not exist simply to respond to crises. Indeed, as Marko’s letter shows, it is quiet work over years which puts WRI in a position to make a response. But a crisis does make particular demands, not only on the staff but on our budget. The international phonecalls, faxes and visits all cost money. They are an investment in a future peace for people in the Yugoslav republics. We know they will pay off some day. Please consider now making a donation to the WRI. This will be a similar investment which we will put to work immediately. Thank you for your support. We know that Marko Hren will feel the same appreciation next time he phones.

    Peace,

    WRI Executive and staff

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