Happenings, News

Macedonian President Trajkovski, a United Methodist, dies in plane crash in Bosnia

lashback: President Trajkovski (left) receiving the 2002 World Methodist Peace Award. – UMNS picture.

PRESIDENT Boris Trajkovski, a United Methodist who helped unite his country of Macedonia and was admired in many circles for his skills at peacemaking and bridge-building, died on Feb 26, 2004 in a plane crash in southeastern Bosnia.

The 47-year-old Macedonian President had been enroute to a regional economic conference in Mostar when air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane under what were reported as poor weather conditions. Wreckage was later found in mountains about 80 km south of Sarajevo. Six of his aides and two pilots were also killed, leaving no survivors.

His wife, Vilma, and two children survive him.

For United Methodists, his death comes as a double blow. President Trajkovski, a recipient of the 2002 World Methodist Peace Award, actively worked for peace and political stability, both in his own small nation and the entire Balkans region. He also tried to strengthen relations among various ethnic and religious groups, using his own Christian faith to guide him.

The Rev George Freeman, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, said President Trajkovski received the 2002 award “because he had been able to use his faith to bring peace and stability into a region of the world in a non-violent way and he was motivated by his faith in God. We were just impressed with his ability to persevere under those kinds of circumstances”.

And the Rev R. Randy Day told United Methodist News Service: “It’s a tragic loss for the United Methodist Church and the whole Methodist family.”

The Rev Day, Chief Executive of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, said the entire church was proud of President Trajkovski’s accomplishments, both as a political leader and faithful lay leader of the church. “He was proud of his Wesleyan religious roots. He was an active partner in the United Methodist global mission network. We will miss his warmth, humour and wise counsel.”

The Rev Wilhelm Nausner, based in Austria, had developed a close relationship with President Trajkovski because he serves as District Superintendent for the United Methodist Church in Macedonia, which has about 6,000 members.

President Trajkovski, who often assisted during services at his United Methodist church in Skopje, had been active in the church since his childhood in Strumica. He even remained president of the church council after being elected President of Macedonia.

President Trajkovski received a law degree from the University of St Cyril and Methodius in Skopje in 1980 and had specialised in commercial and employment law. He had also participated in several international conferences involving conflict resolution, religious tolerance and religious freedom.

His efforts at bridge-building as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Macedonia helped him win the 1999 election for President.

Two years later, he used his skills to help diffuse fighting between the Slavic Macedonian majority and ethnic Albanians and bring about a Nato-enforced peace treaty.

President Trajkovski also played a critical role in pushing the Macedonian Parliament to approve a new Constitution recognising the Albanian minority and the main non-Orthodox religious groups, including Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims.

The Rev H. Eddie Fox, the WMC’s World Evangelism Director and a friend of President Trajkovski’s for 14 years, said of him: “He had been a strong, committed disciple and an ambassador of Christ long before he was an ambassador of any country.” – United Methodist News Agency.

Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.