From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lay pastor resurfaces in Kosovo

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 21 Oct 1998 13:43:34

Oct. 21, 1998	Contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York     {605}

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - A United Methodist lay pastor shepherding three
congregations in war-torn Kosovo has made contact again with church
officials in Switzerland.

Bishop Heinrich Bolleter, based in Zurich, told United Methodist News
Service he had not heard from Mehmet Sopaj since receiving a handwritten
note a month ago. But the bishop, attending the United Methodist Board
of Global Ministries annual meeting, was notified Oct. 20 by his
secretary that Sopaj had called.

Sopaj reported that he and his family had returned to Sallagrazhde and
had found their house to be habitable for the winter. "It's not yet
clear where the other members of the three congregations are," Bolleter

The lay pastor told the bishop's secretary that there was a lessening of
tension in Kosovo because the Serbian troops have disappeared. However,
the Serbian secret police remain. "They are everywhere and we do not
know what this means for the future," Sopaj reported.

Sopaj had worked as a history professor in the Kosovo capital of
Pristina before fleeing to Switzerland during the Yugoslav offensive.
When he returned, his job was gone, because the Serbs did not allow
teaching in the Albanian language at the university, Bolleter said in an
earlier interview.

Sopaj formed United Methodist congregations in Pristina, Sallagrazhde
and Suhareka. He and the church members sought a diplomatic solution to
the war.

Through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Bolleter has
disbursed money to assist refugees in Kosovo, using both Sopaj and a
humanitarian aid group called Johaniter, which was to attempt to reach
Sopaj's village on Oct. 21 or soon after.

Such aid will continue to be needed, according to the bishop. "They have
very hard winters there," he added.

United Methodists can make donations to UMCOR's International Disaster
Response No. 982450-8, earmarked "Kosovo Emergency." Checks can be
placed in church collection plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475
Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. 

United Methodist News Service
Releases and photos also available at

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home