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Macedonian president receives Methodist peace award

9/19/2002 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: Photographs are available

By Kathy Gilbert*

OSLO, Norway (UMNS) - The president of the Republic of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, has received the 2002 World Methodist Peace Award for his leadership and efforts to bring peace to his region of the Balkans.

Trajkovski was presented the award Sept. 18, in a special ceremony during the World Methodist Council executive committee meeting in Oslo.

"It is a joy to receive this award from my family," he told United Methodist News Service. "It means I am still in their hearts and their prayers and they will back me," he said, smiling.

Trajkovski is a lay leader and president of the United Methodist Church Council in Macedonia. He said he grew up in the United Methodist Church and was active in youth programs. His pastor, the Rev. Mihail Cekov, traveled to Oslo to give the benediction at the end of the award presentation.

"Every nation strives for peace," Trajkovski said in his acceptance speech. "But the only peace that lasts forever is found through a true and lasting relationship with Jesus Christ."

The people of Macedonia deserve the credit for the peace in their country, he said. They are "seeking the light," he said, and he asked the committee to pray for them.

"In the course of last year, during the most challenging period of my life, I experienced Christ's words, I lived with his words, and I survived only because of his words," he said.

Being placed in the position of having to sign documents of war was very difficult for him, he told members of the executive committee during a brief address Sept. 19. "I knew signing those papers meant going against everything I believed in, but I also knew I had to weigh that against my duties as president."

Later, discussing that time in his administration, he said he felt like a man in the middle of a fire, but "God was in there with me."

Trajkovski said he prays morning and night and puts his life in God's hands.

Bishop Sunday Mbang of Nigeria, chairperson of the World Methodist Council, presented the award to Trajkovski. "For his courage as a leader and a stabilizing influence, for his consistency in working toward governmental soundness and bringing peace to a region that is emerging from a socialist country to a republic, and for his creativity as a world leader and as a disciple of Jesus Christ, the World Methodist Council honors Boris Trajkovski with the World Methodist Peace Award for 2002," Mbang said.

The World Methodist Council has presented the award annually since 1977. Past recipients include Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Mikhail Gorbachev.

The 2002 award ceremony was held in Trefoldighetskirken Lutheran Church. The Skien United Methodist Scout Brass Band led participants down the city streets to the Centralkiken United Methodist Church, where a reception for Trajkovski was held.

During the award ceremony, the Norwegian Youth Choir performed and sent a message to Trajkovski: "Mr. President, congratulations on receiving your award. We are proud to be with you this evening. Thank you for having dared to be a model for peace."

Trajkovski's vision of a united country, with both Macedonians and Albanians living in peace, helped him win the Albanian vote in the 1999 elections. Trajkovski also played a crucial role in pushing Macedonia's parliament to approve a new constitution that recognizes the Albanian minority as well as the main non-Orthodox religious groups.
Those groups include Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Methodists.

The 46-year-old formerly served as deputy minister of foreign affairs for Macedonia. He received a law degree from the University of St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje in 1980 and had specialized in commercial and employment law. He and his wife, Vilma, employed by the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia, have two children.

During the past 12 years, Trajkovski has participated in international conferences on conflict resolution, religious tolerance and religious freedom. His official biography states his commitment to improving relations between Macedonia and other countries. He emphasized the importance of peace as he concluded his acceptance speech.

Said Trajkovski: "God has called me to be president and to be a peacemaker."
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*Gilbert, a news writer for United Methodist News Service, is on assignment in Norway.

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