Serb Patriarch Heads to Bosnia Peace Conference

Patriarch Irinej, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, will participate in the international peace conference in Sarajevo, seen as the most important recent religious summit in the region.The conference, entitled “Our future is living together – Religion and Culture in Dialogue”, is the first joint gathering of religious and state leaders from the Balkans since the conflicts of the 1990s.“It is very important that this conference is taking place in Sarajevo in the geographical center of the Balkans. It is also important to leave politics aside and not mix it with religion,” religious expert Zivica Tucic commented.

At the closure of the conference the participants are expected to sign a join plea for peace in the region.

Organizers say that around 4,000 people are expected to participate, including senior religious leaders from Russia and Israel.

Beside religious leaders, it is expected that Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, Italian Prime minister Mario Monti and Bakir Izetbegovic, Chair of Bosnia’s Presidency will address the participants, as well other regional and European officials.

Nikola Knezevic, from the Centre for Studies of Religion, Politics and Society, says that churches and religious communities are important bodies than can further true reconciliation among countries.

“Facing and overcoming the past is a long and painful process and the role of the churches is very important in helping society recover from conflicts,” Knezevic said.

“The process of reconciliation between neighboring nations needs to be followed by closer cooperation between their churches and religious communities,” he added.

This will be the first official visit of the Serbian Patriarch to the Bosnian capital. This June, for the first time he visited Croatia, where he met Catholic Church leaders and senior government officials, with the aim of easing tensions between the two countries.

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