Over 4K Bibles Sent to Serbian Soldiers to Prevent Future War Crimes

A man holds a bible during church services in the Brooklyn borough of New York, February 18, 2007. ((Photo; Reuters/Shannon Stapleton))

Serbian soldiers are receiving free Bibles as part of an effort to promote moral transformation in the ranks and prevent future war crimes.

The London based Telegraph reports that 4,000 copies of the New Testament have already been sent to soldiers with funding coming from the British arm of the Bible Society.

Notable British politician and abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is one of the founders of the society that promotes the distribution of Scripture but not a specific faith or denomination. More funding for Bibles for soldiers in Serbia will come from church members across the U.K.

Plans are being made to distribute Bibles to every soldier in the Serbian army. Colonel Sasha Milutinovic, chief of the religion section, is a supporter of the project and claimed Serbian Army and soldiers committed war crimes because they had "forgotten" the Christian worldview.

"I hope we will never see a war crime again in the Serbian Army again," he said.

"That will be the result of this — it will improve our sense of how to treat the enemy and respect for the enemy.

"I hope it will not only improve our morals but to bring us, in the 21st century, back into this time when really people believed in eternal life," continued Milutinovic.

"My view is that it's about God's love. I want to bring people back to these eternal values."

In the 1990s, during the Yugoslavian conflict, the Serbian army and leadership were responsible for heinous crimes including ethnic genocide against Bosnians, Croats, and Albanians. Mass rapes and torture were commonly reported during the conflict.

Political and military leaders were tried in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, with some trials still set to be completed. The late former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević is among the most well-known war criminals tried for war crimes the Yugoslav conflict.

Milutinovic says the Serbian military is reforming its ethics and asserted that the New Testament trumps international law.

"We made some mistakes in the past and we forgot the New Testament. The New Testament is better than international law: humanitarian laws are based on this," he added.

"Our codes of conduct are from the New Testament and we use them in our codes of behavior. We want to come back to this. We believe in this traditionally, but it is hard to find a Bible in an Orthodox house. But this situation is changing."

Serbs, too, faced persecution after the breakup of the former nation of Yugoslavia. The Guardian reported in 2011 on the conviction of war crimes by the Croatian military leaders against civilians.

"Croatian forces committed acts of murder, cruel treatment, inhumane acts, destruction, plunder, persecution and deportation. There was a widespread and systematic attack directed against this Serb civilian population, [creating] an environment in which those present there had no choice but to leave," judges at the International Court of Justice at The Hague found.

The Serbs, many of them Christian, faced war crimes and genocide from Bosnian Muslims. Many Serbs have complained that the international community has paid too little attention to war crimes committed against Serbian Christians by Muslim forces. Additionaly, some claim that false narratives have been compiled to whitewash Muslim human rights violations and crimes against Serbs by the West for political purposes.

Roman Catholics and Protestants pale in comparison to the number of Orthodox Christians in Serbia. The vast majority of the citizens in the Southeastern European country identify or are members of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The Bible Society, now worldwide, was founded in Britain in the 18th century, as a means to provide soldiers and sailors, or those who were poor, with a copy of the Scripture.

This article was originally published in The Christian Post. 

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