“War has not yet come to an end”

Poet Senadin Musabegovic speaks of a torn, immobile, divided Country. In view of the Pope's visit to Sarajevo he formulated a wish

A torn and divided Country, hostage of strong nationalisms but also a crossroads of peoples, religions and culture that could once again act as a bridge connecting the West and the East and recover an important role in the international geopolitical arena. This is the Bosnia-Herzegovina that awaits the visit of Pope Francis in Sarajevo next June 6. The programme was presented on April 14 in the capital and it envisages, inter alia, the celebration of Mass in the Koševo stadium, the encounter with youths and consecrated persons, an ecumenical and an interreligious gathering. It is the wish of the Pope that the visit may contribute to the “consolidation of fraternity and peace, interreligious dialogue and friendship”. Michela Mosconi of SIR Europe broached the theme with Senadin Musabegovic, among the most acclaimed poets in contemporary Bosnia-Herzegovina (his renowned work is “The dust on the surgeon’s gloves”), a survivor of the carnage of the siege. During that period he fought with the Bosnian army to defend his own city. You have written about Sarajevo and Bosnia first as a novelist and then with poems. Could you describe your Country today, as it looks forward to the Pope’s visit? “Bosnia and Herzegovina is a divided Country, for which the war that ended in 1995 hasn’t really ended but only stopped. There is a very strong form of nationalism, which has been one of the causes of the cruel, bloody conflict. There is a strong divide between the rich and the poor, and the glimpse of social justice is nowhere to be seen”. Of that war the memory of the long siege of Sarajevo that you personally experienced lingers on. What do you remember of those days that inspired your poetry? “The war was the cause of many of the situations I describe in my poems, notably a feeling of loss of the body, its loneliness. It’s a poetry whereby body language, its details, clearly emerges. This kind of transformation took place with the siege: the will to survive the war was replaced by the will to survive on the market, characterized by selfishness and competition, by the destruction of our fellow other. I would like to add something else concerning the war…” Go ahead… “The war determined a paralysis of politics and civil society. People are accepting a situation that became unbearable both from the moral and economic angles. The common belief is that everything is fine provided there is no war. On the basis of this, any form of humiliation is accepted. There is a total deadlock, a strong indifference to what is happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is no will to look at the future, to build something”. The war and the siege that caused thousands of deaths and wounded, didn’t kill the great cultural tradition of Sarajevo… “It’s a paradox, because during the period of the siege there was a true yearning to survive through culture, while today the museums of Bosnia and Herzegovina are shutting down. We are witnessing the abandonment of the places of culture, as if to cancel a common heritage. There is no longer the yearning to build a common good and a joint future”. And what about the international community? Did you have responsibilities to that regard? “The siege was one of the first reality shows of our times. The daily pictures of destruction and death have become a kind of show witnessed by the entire world. Nobody could say they didn’t know or didn’t see. But nobody did anything. Europe’s mistakes involve two fronts: it was unable to manage a multiethnic State like Bosnia because it always had an experience of nation States with a well-defined majority. Moreover, Europe failed to grasp the importance of dialogue with a community of moderate, open, Western Muslims. With Bosnia-Herzegovina Europe missed an important opportunity of dialogue with the Muslim world and now we are witnessing the unfolding of the conflicts in the Middle-East”. Bosnia as a bridge between the East and the West. Is it still possible? Bosnia is in itself a bridge connecting the East and the West owing to its features as a multiethnic Country. This should be a point of departure to build authentic, long-lasting peace”. You survived the siege also thanks to poetry. Are there “medicines” that can heal Bosnia-Herzegovina? “With all of its defects, I think that the best possibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in Europe. I hope that sooner or later we may become a part of it and I also wish there will be authentic dialogue between the various religions and ethnic groups. Dialogue is the only possibility that can help my Country overcome this desperate situation”. In what way could the upcoming visit of Pope Francis help your Country? “I hope this visit will bring openness, that it will usher in a new dialogue, considering that in many cases religions have championed the fantasies of nationalism. I hope the Pope’s speech will go against the tide and prompt an ever greater openness between Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox”.

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