Leaders urged to see Bosnia as a European challenge

Two distinguished speakers came together to discuss the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh on Saturday 25 August 2012.

They were Dr Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina and religious leader of the Bosnian Muslim community, and the Rev Donald Reeves, Director of the Soul of Europe, who has been awarded an MBE for his work in the Balkans.After a brief historical run-down, Mustafa Ceric made an impassioned plea, urging the European community to recognise Bosnia as the ‘issue and problem’ of Europe, arguing that denying genocide can lead to its repetition and that ‘to deny genocide is to commit genocide’.

However, on a more positive note, he said that many Bosnians are for ‘peace and reconciliation’ and that interfaith work is being carried out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, often with more success than here in Britain.

he civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina culminated in the massacre of over eight thousand Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. Territorial, ethnic, political and religious factors all played a part in the conflict, and remain active in the region, and attempts at peacemaking and reconciliation have been made by both political and religious figures.

Donald Reeves also discussed interfaith work, and his role in rebuilding a Bosnian mosque that had been destroyed by Christians. He argued that Christians, as perpetrators, have a duty to carry out such acts of reconciliation.

He also argued in favour of a more positive view of the Bosnian situation: while there is a lot of poverty and mistrust of politicians, there is also a strong desire for reconciliation.

The ensuing discussion proved challenging. Some audience members accused Mustafa Ceric of ‘demonising’ the Serbs by presenting them as sole perpetrators of the violence and ethnic cleansing. However, he continued to argue that the facts supported his view that this is not a case of equal responsibility.

The impact of the Bosnian civil war on Britain, particularly on British Muslims, was discussed, with audience members sharing their own recollections and frustration of the failure of the Anglican church to take action – though, as Rev Reeves pointed out, the Anglican church in these islands is not necessarily a homogenous group.

Overall, it was a fascinating discussion, and a great insight into the human capacity to love and to hate, to build and to destroy, observers and participants said.

The meeting was chaired by Professor Hugh Goddard, Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh.

Ekklesia is a sponsor and media partner of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, along with funders including the Scottish Government, civic, faith, community and educational organisations.

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