During the bitter Kosovo war of the late 1990s, Father Sava Janjic emerged as a tireless and innovative advocate for reconciliation. By day, he was on the ground helping the Serbian members of his church and their Albanian neighbors. By night, he sought to even-handedly publicize the story of the conflict. And when the opportunity arose, he strove to energize the international community for the cause of peace.
For years before the battles began, Father Sava lived with twenty-two fellow monks in the Decani Monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church. But as sectarian tensions rose between Albanian Muslims and Serbian Christians, Father Sava defied the stereotype of a cloistered monk. Fluent in English and technologically savvy, he sent out a daily stream of e-mails, supplying journalists and diplomats with their only reliable on-the- ground perspective of the conflict. And when he wasn’t on the net, he would scan the countryside for displaced persons in need, providing food, shelter and safety regardless of their ethnicity.
As the international community became involved, Father Sava became increasingly alarmed at the one-sided depiction of the conflict. Rejecting the “good versus evil” portrayal by the international press, he presented a more complex picture—a war of mutual atrocities in which religion and ethnicity were exploited for the self-interest of leaders from both sides. He was tireless. But he pushed himself to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion. Perhaps it was predictable, but Father Sava collapsed in the summer of 2000, returning to the Decani Monastery to recuperate.
Today, he continues to pursue peace and reconciliation. Fr. Sava reestablished his presence in the peace and reconciliation process and community by utilizing technology, engaging in frequent Facebook updates and Tweets, commenting on cultural and religious issues in Kosovo and around the world. What distinguishes Father Sava, therefore, is not just his role as a peacemaker but how he appreciated the power of communication and used the religious voice in protecting people in conflict.
Follow Fr. Sava on Twitter @SavaJanjic