Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

By Alex Pollock

On Sunday, 24 September, 30 armed Serbs attacked a police patrol in the usually peaceful village of Banjska in northern Kosovo, killing one police officer and injuring another. After the shooting, the Serbs took cover in an Orthodox monastery. Three gunmen were killed, and the rest escaped from the monastery on foot, evading the Kosovar police forces’ efforts to capture them. The incident was seen as an escalation of months of growing tension between Serbia and Kosovo (a disputed territory recognised as independent by only half of UN member states) as a build-up of Serbian troops along the Kosovo border has drawn a comparison with Russia’s behaviour before it invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Following the incident, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg authorised the deployment of additional NATO troops to the region to “address the current situation.” This deployment is the second increase of NATO troops in Kosovo in the last three months. The UK Ministry of Defence also said it was ready to send a battalion of between 500-650 soldiers to help stabilise the situation, and the United States urged Serbia to decrease its military presence along the border. There are currently approximately 4,500 NATO-led forces in Kosovo. The discovery of a stash of Serbian weapons, including armoured personnel carriers, mines, and military-grade missile launchers, increased concerns that the Serbian government, rather than a group of armed citizens, was behind the attack. On the Friday following the incident, the vice president of Serb List (the most prominent Kosovo-Serb political party) excused himself from his position after taking responsibility for organising the attack but claimed he did not receive instruction or assistance from the Serbian government. Despite this declaration, the Kosovo government continues to blame Belgrade for the increase in hostilities. 

Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Kosovo’s majority Albanian population called for independence from Serbian rule. The fight for Kosovar independence led to a violent retaliation from Belgrade, which resulted in NATO’s intervention. A large-scale bombing campaign by NATO forces led to Serbia’s withdrawal from the territory. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, and many Western nations recognise it as such, but not Serbia. Of Kosovo’s approximate 1.6 million inhabitants, around 92% are ethnic Albanians, and 6% are ethnic Serbs. Further complicating the conflict is Western officials’ allegation that Russia is using Serbian allies to stir up tension in the region (specifically in Kosovo and Bosnia) out of frustration over the West’s continued support for Ukraine. 

The Balkan conflict is often seen not only in ethnic terms but also religious. Serbia is predominantly Orthodox Christian (about 78.4% according to the Joshua Project, and only about 0.72% evangelical), and Kosovo is majority Muslim (about 90% according to the same source). Kosovo’s Christian population is small, just above 4%, with only an estimated 0.20% identifying as evangelical (there is little to no evidence of evangelical growth, according to the Joshua Project). Christianity spreads slowly in Kosovo, as deep-rooted ethnic conflict leads many in the territory to associate Christianity with Orthodox Serbia. The global Church can pray that this deep-rooted ethnic divide does not hinder the spread of the Gospel but serves as a practical demonstration of what it means to pursue Christlike unity and reconciliation. Kosovo is Europe’s second poorest country, after Moldova, meaning there are many hands-on ways the Church can be involved in the community. Economic struggles and decades of conflict have left many Kosovars without physical resources. As a result, the Kosovar Church, though small, can be an agent of positive change both practically and spiritually by living out the message in James 2:15-17: “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So, you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (NLT)



6 UNREACHED GROUPS (1.7% of pop.)



5 UNREACHED GROUPS (96.2% of pop.)

Please join us in prayer for the following:

  • For a de-escalation of tension in the Balkan region and for peace to be restored
  • For Kosovar believers to reach out to their neighbours with a message of hope, unity, and restoration, ultimately bringing non-believers to a saving knowledge of Christ
  • For the global Church to intercede for the Balkan region and for churches in both Kosovo and Serbia to be instruments of peace and reconciliation in the Lord’s hands