The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is in fact the third to bear that name. It was inaugurated on 27th April 1992 and consists of Serbia and Montenegro – the former states of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina having already achieved independence by one means or another.
The current Yugoslavia covers about 40,000 sq. miles and has a population of about 10.5 million people. The majority are nominally Christian and there are sizeable minorities of Albanians, Muslims and Magyars. The Albanians are mainly in the province of Kosovo where the KLA, (Kosovo Liberation Army), are fighting for a separate state. Presently most of the news we receive is about the plight of the refugees – the people of Kosovo – as they are driven by the Serbian army or flee from their homes in Kosovo to safety in the surrounding states. Meanwhile, NATO mounts daily air attacks on the whole of Yugoslavia, especially Belgrade, Novi Sad and other large towns.
There are quite a number of assemblies in the Vojvodina province in the north of Yugoslavia and a good number of believers. We need to pray not only for the resolution of the conflict but for the preservation of our fellow believers as the fighting drags on. Weeks of air raids have destroyed most of the infrastructure including roads, bridges, oil refineries, factories and schools. Normal life has come to a standstill as most schools and businesses are now closed. Major problems are being experienced by believers in a village assembly near an oil refinery which has been bombed regularly. There are believers in Belgrade and six assemblies around Novi Sad.
Numbers of brethren have been conscripted into the armed forces in the struggle against the enemies of Serbia and they especially need prayer and support in very difficult circumstances. Others live in fear of the authorities who appear to be taking a tough line against those who have had past associations with Christians from the West. Travelling and visiting assemblies is difficult and dangerous and because bridges over the rivers Danube and Tisa have been destroyed, it is in many cases impossible. Petrol is in short supply and in some cases there is pressure from unbelievers who want to vent their anger and frustration on the Lord’s people.
There are many instances of real difficulty, e.g. a young believer had just had surgery for cancer and had started a course of very necessary chemotherapy. The continuation of this treatment is no longer feasible – our prayers are needed in this and in similar cases. Thanks to modern communications, e.g. e-mail, messages reach us from believers throughout the conflict areas and surrounding states and we are well aware of their plight. With danger and fear abroad we are touched and encouraged by their faith in God, and this in spite of tension running very high. Even when the fighting is over it will take many years for things to get back to normal, and in many cases normality can never return. So far as we are aware no believers have as yet been killed or injured and assembly buildings have been preserved. Some believers write: ‘We are in shock and disbelief that this is happening’; ‘Please pray that unbelievers will have a hunger for the gospel’; ‘While men embark on a programme of hatred God has His own programme o love and deliverance through the Lord Jesus’; ‘Pray for courage and wisdom for all leaders’; ‘All conferences and gospel meetings have been cancelled for security reasons’; ‘This is a time to test our faith and trust in God … God is our refuge and strength … the Lord of hosts is with us’.
As we see fellow believers in suffering and fear, we share with them as members of the same body. Let us pray for an end to the conflict; a solution to the refugee problem; preservation of the civilian population from attack believers caught up in the struggle; the assemblies of God’s people; a quick recovery after the war is over.