The Center for Religious Dialogue: Activities and Future Steps regarding the Dialogue between Different Religious Communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Saje, Vjekoslav | Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

The Center for Religious Dialogue: Activities and Future Steps regarding the Dialogue between Different Religious Communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Saje, Vjekoslav, Journal of Ecumenical Studies


The intention of the Center for Religious Dialogue in Sarajevo and its projects is to continue bringing people of different faiths or the same faith and tradition to discuss the issues that are crucial for the sustainability of their communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, be they majority or minority groups, once the return of displaced persons was accomplished. Along with acquiring knowledge of the traditional techniques for conflict-resolution and problem-solving, this is an opportunity to introduce a new methodology for conflict-transformation, which is an appreciative inquiry and dialogue. It is amazing how enthusiastic religious leaders and lay people are to have a chance to elaborate the positive aspects of Bosnian society and to pick up the true and good stories, examples, and solutions, through various group or plenary discussions and workshops. They become powerfully motivated to contribute to change within the society once they are back with their people. It has proved to be very useful to hear so many good stories from different places in Bosnia of how people of other faiths are helping their former enemies. The Center for Religious Dialogue is striving to encourage this process.

The "appreciative inquiry" approach in problem-solving, by giving and elaborating on examples of good behavior and actions and by creating the environment of a good and appreciated neighborhood, is the methodology that can help the restoration of the traditional Bosnian neighborhood culture, where respect for the other was one of the major values. The Center for Religious Dialogue from Sarajevo has already introduced this new methodology in seminars in Sipovo, Brcko, Visegrad, and Sarajevo.

During the seminar for the Muslim community in April, 2001, in Sarajevo, the Appreciative Inquiry Session made a real breakthrough. The beginning of the seminar was primarily about the suffering of the people of Bosnia, particularly its Muslim population, during the war. One imam from Srebrenitza was grieving that forty-one members of his family had been killed in the massacre in that city. The audience was sad and silent, and one could feel a general attitude of "no way out." However, the next day when we asked the imams to try to refer to the positive aspects and find encouraging stories from the past, a big shift occurred. Imams from Prijedor and Sanski Most, the cities of genocide of Muslims during the war, started to share their stories about the multireligious life and respect in those cities, just a few weeks before the war knocked on their doors. The stories were about both Muslim and Serbian Orthodox communities that gave donations and helped to build local mosques and churches. This was a pure example of how war was not wanted by those people. Stories such as these can become good examples and starting points toward reconciliation and building for a better future.

In this time of globalization, especially our Muslims are struggling with the dilemma and a big temptation--isolation or assimilation. In the above-mentioned seminar the suggestion of the Muslim leader Reis-ul-Ulema, Mustafa Ef. Ceric was to continue in the direction of integration. A seminar of this kind should give some answers on issues of internal and external relations. The other suggestion was also to have more seminars like this and to work hard on bringing representatives of different traditions, religions, and nationalities together, both from Bosnia and Herzegovina and from the region as a whole. This could be a way to reconciliation and integration rather than to the violent conflict and clash of civilizations.

The Center for Religious Dialogue is committed to work on that idea and will provide the networking and support of all the efforts aiming to build relationships, respect human rights, and create an environment for normal life, appreciation, work, and peace in Bosnia and the Balkans. …

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