CIM: Reconciliation and Peacebuilding in Bosnia

They want to build the trust between the people in Bosnia, and begin the reconciliation process. The Center for Peacebuilding (CIM) works hard to reduce the rift between the population groups, caused by the war in the 1990s, and that Croats, Serbs and Bosnians can live together peacefully and neighborly.

Since Imam Vahidin Omanović won the Peace Award in 2011 of the schwelle Foundation as the unknown Peace worker, a continuous collaboration connects us. The peace center established by him in 2004 – Center for Peacebuilding achieves exemplary works and has – partially through the peace prize – stabilized and furthered to developed itself in the city of Sanski Most and the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina and beyond.

Choir Harmonija performing during the opening ceremony of our International Peace Week in Sanski MostEven though the impression here in German is that the political situation in Bosnia is pacified, the partners in Bosnia however let us know otherwise. The individual population groups live more separated than before the war and national stereotypes dominate politics. In the census the people were supposed to attach themselves to one group and one religion of three (Bosnian, Serb, Croat) – other was not anticipated. Our partners find the situation with the parallel structured Republica Srbska as violence ridden conflicts and very dangerous.

So much more important is the hope brought by the peace work of CIM that reaches many young people and a big group of voluntary peace workers can be trained and involved. Many parents and important public people could be with the time, be recruited as support.

Vahidin himself had to walk the rough path from experiencing violence and hate to be willing to begin reconciliation and doing reconciliatory work, he studied peace studies in the USA and did a training as trauma-therapist. The Imam never uses his personal and spiritual charisma that is shaped by Islam, in order to dominate the youth. Instead whenever possible, he encourages them to take their own initiative “You do that – this is your center.”

In their offices in the center of the city his colleagues Mevlodin Ramanović, Vahidin, und many volunteers from different countries can be found. One big room is used as a meeting place as well as a seminar room for many diverse activities.

Iftar dinner in Sanski Most's small park2013 there was a big interreligious feast in a small park in the city for the occasion of Iftar (Fast-Breaking.

2012 and interreligious Choir was established, that consists of members of different genders, ages and ethnic, national as well as religious beliefs. They sing for both Muslim, Christian as well a general holidays and occasions.

Yearly CIM hosts a Peace Camp, in which young people of different ethnic background live and learn together. It takes courage to tell one another, in the presence of a trainer and a trusted atmosphere of violence and conflict experience and find a way together of understanding and finding a new way to be with each other. Another step is to venture into daily life with a new way of thinking, and to become a contributor to the camp the next year.

Every year around September 21st the yearly international peace week takes place in Sanski Most, with which CIM goes to the public in the city. They have workshops, seminars, a drawing worship, concerts, dances and a day of open house that among others takes place with language courses.

In 2012 a new project was started “Truth, Healing and Reconciliation in the community.” It is supposed to collect 45 personal stories of the war 1992-1995 and when the affected are ready, they are supposed to make their story heard and shared in the public. Petra Titze and Wiebke Jung of the Foundation were at the first motivational presentation in this project.

In the so called interreligious school there is a weekly meeting of 20 representatives of the religious groups in Sanski Most: Muslim, Roman-Catholics, Serbian-Orthodox and Protestants. The Clergy then each spend teaching a monthly course about their religion with emphasis on: 1. Heartfelt wish of their faiths tradition 2. How does the religion see peace and peace building? After this there should be a curriculum put online.

Bosnians and Americans working for peace togetherInternational volunteers and international encounters are also an important element in CIMs youth work. Conflict training and Peace work is not only necessary in Bosnia and some things become visible when taking a step back, example or even role models. There is contact with Germany, the U.S and recently also Northern Ireland.

We from the schwelle Foundation are especially happy that our project partner RAND in Croatia, Fenix in Sanski Most and CIM are linked. For example a training for elementary school teachers led by RAND and CIM being hosted at Fenix.

Many more ideas-amongst others a peace embassy, a own home with a café and seminar as well as encounter rooms – are still open. We in Bremen are also still thinking about, how we can make this open Bosnian Islam for intercultural and inter-religious work in Germany better known.