Celebrating Peace

October 2018: International Peace Week in Sanski Most. Our partner organization has invited, the Center for Peacebuilding - CIM (Centar Za Izgradnju Mira) from Northern Bosnia and the other project partners from the region came as well: Mihael Sečen and Neda Popović from INTeRo from Croatia, Ana and Otto Raffai from RAND from Croatia.

In Bosnia peace work is always regarded with a certain amount of scepticism. For Mevludin Ramanović and Vahidin Omanović of CIM, it is therefore all the more important that a statement be made regularly every year: The Peace Week is a highly visible event in the town centre of Sanski Most, regardless of the number of participants and the speakers. Everyone is invited; those who come are the few actively committed people, who welcome this meeting of international peace activists as an opportunity to recharge their batteries. This year there were a few young people from the “Project Peace” in the Allgäu in Germany, long-time CIM companions, young peace activists from Bosnia and we from the schwelle Foundation.

We started with the fishbowl method as a way of reporting on the successes and failures of our peace work. And we gained support from the energy which was generated by sharing with each other the many small steps which have been taken in so many different places.

Judge Patricia Whalen demanded a lot from us, when she told us about her work as a judge, from 2012 to 2017, in the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the busiest war crimes court in the world. She asked us what a society needs for reconciliation – we came to justice and truth, and she asked what justice could look like. Difficult questions in a divided country, where mass graves from the war in the 1990s are still being discovered, war criminals are revered as heroes, and there is no prospect of a joint reappraisal of the past.

The next morning we visited the Identification Centre where the corpses from the mass graves are identified. This work is still going on 23 years after the end of the war. A dedicated staff member reported on their work: The unspeakable horror of war was so close. And peace work is so incredibly urgent.

We needed time to recover.

Some time ago CIM bought a piece of land and created the Peace Farm. Sheep, goats, chicken, geese and a donkey live there; families from the town work together in the vegetable patch and take the harvest home with them. It is a peaceful place and is full of young people several times during the year when CIM brings them together from all parts of Bosnia as part of its youth work. It is often the first time that the young people get to talk to a Bosnian Serb, a Bosnian Croat, or a Bosniak. They then realise that they can only change things in this country by working together. We found time on the Peace Farm to get into conversation, to collect mushrooms, to laugh, and to build networks.

During these few days we also worked on the subjects of trauma and reconciliation, truth, prejudice, empathetic listening, and inter-religious understanding. And we celebrated the International Day of Peace on 21 September with the inter-religious choir Harmonia.

Next year, from 15 to 21 September, the Peace Week will be celebrated conspicuously once again in the town of Sanski Most, in the north of Bosnia.

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