Paving the way to common views

''No more divisions'', jointly declared Balkan religious and political leaders

Almost twenty years since the seemingly endless, tragic conflict in the Balkans, political, economic and religious leaders gathered June 9-11 in Banja Luka (Bosnia-Erzegovina) to discuss the future prospects of the Country and of the Balkan region as a whole. The arm’s length debate was moderated by Steve Jarding, Professor at JFK Harvard Government School. The international summit “For reconcilation and peace: a step forward”, stems from an initiative of Msgr. Franjo Komarica, bishop of Banja Luka, president of the Bosnian Bishops’ Conference, who has been actively engaged in ensuring the respect of human rights for all world populations, regardless of their culture, language or religion, for years. “Peace and reconciliation are a crucial element in the lives of the Balkans population”, pointed out Msgr. Luigi Pezzuto, apostolic nuncio in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Msgr. Pezzuto shared with participants a universal message: “Preserving the memory of the past is important. But it’s even more important to walk together towards the future”.  Towards a new form of cooperation. The three-day meeting in Banja Luka was promoted by the United States’ Catholic Bishops’ Conference with the support of Boston’s Zrinski  Institute, which endorses the objectives pursued by bishop Komarica in recent years. Religious leaders (Catholic, Orthodox, Muslims and Jews) along with political and economic representatives of the Balkan regions were the protagonists of the lectures, debates and workshops, providing momentum to the object of the meeting. Participants unanimously voiced their ‘no’ to violence and prevarication, reaffirming the importance of cooperation aimed at laying the foundations of a better future for all citizens. “The purpose of the summit was to undertake interreligious dialogue at international level among the various parties present in Bosnia-Herzegovina – pointed out Drazen Komarica from the Zrinski institute in Boston – and to address central issues regarding a new form of leadership for contemporary societies”. A question of leadership. “Politicians who have the power not always exert their leadership nor do they have a responsible understanding of citizens’ future”, continued Drazen Komarica. That’s why participants in the meeting conveyed the proposal to set up a dedicated institution in the Srpska Republic “to teach the underlying principles of leadership, communication and professional practice, to form conscientious and responsible political candidates, capable of making the best use of the role they have been called to assume by citizens.” Transformations are urgently needed, they said. The absence of political and governmental reforms prevents the establishment of negotiations regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina’s EU adhesion and thwart the launch of a Euro-Atlantic integration process. Economy as a bridge. Dialogue, mutual exchange of views, openness to joint projects and perspectives were the starting point of the summit. The purpose of the initiative is to pass from theory to practice, to give new thrust to the territory that after the war underwent great suffering and sorrow. Without integration there cannot be serious talks about peace, nor is it possible to envisage “economic growth”, underlined Ranko Krivokapiæ, president of the Parliament of Montenegro. Instead, “the economy could act as a trigger to reconcile divided peoples. If by uniting our forces we manage to achieve consistent results, we will also improve the living conditions of citizens”, said Nebojša Stefanoviæ, president of the national Assembly of the Serb Republic. United in faith. Investing in people and for people is another aspect addressed during the meeting. This aspect involves those living in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as those who were forced to leave the country that should be given the opportunity to return to their countries of origin. To them was addressed the final statement by religious leaders, who wrote: “As believers in the one and only God, we firmly believe that nobody has the right to abuse faith in the name of God or of a religious community. There should be no intolerance or incitement to commit acts violence towards another person”, who “first and foremost is a creature of God.” Enough with hatred and divisions: the serious moral crisis of our Country needs everyone’s contribution, which the summit in Banja Luka is a token of. Only in this way will war be confined to a distant past, and it will no longer impact the future of this land.

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