Saturday, 25 August 2012

Report: Bosnia twenty years on

IN the second of the Feature conversations at this year's Festival of Spirituality and Peace, two especially distinguished speakers came together to discuss the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

They were Dr Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina and religious leader of the Bosnian Muslim community, and the Rev Donald Reeves, Director of the Soul of Europe, who has been awarded an MBE for his work in the Balkans.

After a brief historical run-down, Mustafa Ceric gave an impassioned introduction, urging the European community to recognise Bosnia as the 'issue and problem' of Europe, and arguing that denying genocide can lead to its repetition and that 'to deny genocide is to commit genocide'.

However, on a more positive note, he said that many Bosnians are for 'peace and reconciliation' and that interfaith work is being carried out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, often with more success than here in Britain

Donald Reeves also discussed interfaith work, and his role in rebuilding a Bosnian mosque that had been destroyed by Christians. He argued that Christians, as perpetrators, have a duty to carry out such acts of reconciliation.

He also argued in favour of a more positive view of the Bosnian situation: while there is a lot of poverty and mistrust of politicians, there is also a strong desire for reconciliation.

The ensuing discussion proved challenging. Some audience members accused Mustafa Ceric of 'demonising' the Serbs by presenting them as sole perpetrators of the violence and ethnic cleansing. However,  he continued to argue that the facts supported his view that this is not a case of equal responsibility.

The impact of the Bosnian civil war on Britain, particularly on British Muslims, was discussed, with audience members sharing their own recollections and frustration of the failure of the Anglican church to take action - though, as Rev Reeves pointed out, the Anglican church in these islands is not necessarily a homogenous group.

Overall, it was a fascinating discussion, and a great insight into the human capacity to love and to hate, to build and to destroy.


(c) Katie MacFadyen is reading Classics at the University of Edinburgh. She has been a media intern for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, and a regular contributor to Spirituality & Peace News.

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