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The NLA, Reconciliation and.... Repentance
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I wrote about this issue a few weeks ago, but during one of my morning jogs, the thought hit me: Defense Minister Besimi wants reconciliation but he is not willing to do what is necessary to achieve it: repent.

With the proposed law from VMRO-DPMNE on benefits to those military veterans who fought in the 2001 conflict before parliament, there has been a lot of talk from all sides.  As I mentioned in my last article on this subject, members of DUI – the former NLA – want those who fought with them included in this proposed legislation.  Members of VMRO-DPMNE – rightly, in my opinion – do not want the former NLA members included in it because they were a paramilitary force that attacked a legitimately elected democratic government and attempted to bring it down.  (It is worth remembering that the NLA threatened to destroy the airport, parliament and government buildings in one day with their rockets.  Those are hardly the words of a people fighting for “rights.”)

So when Minister Besimi claims that he went to an NLA monument to honor NLA fighters to bring about “reconciliation” I must pause and reflect.

A few points:

First, reconciliation takes two people.  One cannot unilaterally reconcile.  So going to the monument of fallen NLA fighters and then claiming it as an act of “reconciliation” is absurd.  And a lie.  Where is other side in this “reconciliation?”

Second, in order to achieve reconciliation, you must first have repentance.  After repentance comes forgiveness.  And you must have the other side giving their forgiveness.  Then, after forgiveness comes reconciliation. I know and have read the statements of Macedonians whose kidnapped loved ones in the 2001 conflict have never been found – that they would forgive if they only knew what happened to them.  Macedonians are a generous and forgiving people.  But repentance from the side that caused the problems comes first.

The unvarnished truth: There will be no reconciliation until, first, there is forgiveness.  And there will be no forgiveness until there is first repentance.

The problem with the former NLA members and their leaders (now DUI leaders) is that they will never repent because to repent means to admit that they were wrong in the first place and that they offended a great many people, Macedonians, Albanians, and others included.

If I offend or hurt you, I must first acknowledge that I did wrong, that I did harm.  Then I must ask for your forgiveness.  Then you must forgive me.  Then we can be reconciled.  That is the way reconciliation works.  There is simply no other way.

The Bible is full of examples of this.  Wrongdoing – repentance – forgiveness – reconciliation.

A challenge to members of the media reading this because I honestly want to know: US Ambassador Paul Wohlers is a Christian.  I challenge the media in Macedonia to ask him publicly what he thinks about the idea of reconciliation and how it is achieved.  For that matter, the next time some EU official comes into Macedonia, ask them what they think about the subject of reconciliation.

There is, of course, no mention of reconciliation within the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the NLA – excuse me, DUI – claims that reconciliation comes from the law on amnesty which was granted to the rank and file of the NLA.  But the law on amnesty was never intended to give amnesty to those who committed grave acts of violence.  And, an earlier draft at least, requested repentance.  Here is language from one of the first drafts considered by President Boris Trajkovski:

“The Republic of Macedonia expresses goodwill to give amnesty to those who will voluntarily turn in all their weapons…our grace should be met with repentance.  However, for those who have committed grave crimes or for those who refuse to turn in all their weapons, justice will follow another path.”

One of the problems with the idea of repentance from members of the NLA is that Islam – to the degree that NLA/DUI members are actually practicing Muslims – Islam denies the act of repenting toward men.  Islam only allows for repentance toward their god, Allah. Therein lies part of the problem with asking them to repent. They cannot repent toward men. And then again, they must admit that they were wrong in the first place.

The heroes of Macedonia are the members of the military who pledge their lives to defend the territorial integrity of Macedonia.  These heroes – without respect to their ethnic identity – deserve the thanks and support of a grateful nation.  Those who died or were wounded in the defense of Macedonia in the darker days of 2001 are owed a special debt of thanks and gratitude for their service and sacrifice.  We honor them and their families.

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Jason Miko
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