Sarajevo is hosting hundreds of religious, political and cultural leaders from more than 60 countries as part of the International Gathering for Peace.The event, organised by the Christian Community of Sant’Egidio from Italy, was held with the help of Islamic, Catholic and Jewish communities in Bosnia and the Orthodox Church of Serbia, under the slogan “Living Together is the Future”.The gathering was opened on Sunday by the Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, who said he was happy to see that Sarajevo, a city which has suffered greatly, was sending out a message of tolerance to different religions and cultures.
Referring to Bosnia’s two entities, Izetbegovic said that the country is struggling to win the battle for unity.
“If the idea of co-existence does not succeed in BiH, it is hard to see it succeeding elsewhere in this complicated world,” Izetbegovic said, adding that for hundreds of years the citizens of Sarajevo lived together and helped each other build places of worship.
The Serbian Patriarch Irinej said that the peoples of BiH and neighbouring countries had suffered in recent years but also in the more distant past, and that this memory should be kept alive as a warning for the future.
“The world nowadays faces many crises,” Irinej said, “I think it is firstly a spiritual crisis and for all of us, men of religion, a crisis is a challenge, to try to help […]to find answers.”
The head of the Bosnian Islamic Community, Mustafa Ceric, said that the gathering demonstrated that Bosnia had selected the path of peace.
“Our option is security and not terrorism, our right is freedom and dignity and our hearts and minds are honest in prayer,” Ceric said.
The Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, noted that people had no choice but to live together.
“The message of this gathering is to build a stable peace for every man and all the nations,” Puljic said.
The head of the Jewish Community in Bosnia, Jakob Finci, said that peace is better understood by those who have lived through the war. He noted that the world is at a crossroads between nuclear weapons and wars on one side, and tolerance and coexistence to the other.
“There are holy books on those paths and none is calling for killings,” Finci said.
The President of the International Centre for Peace, Ibrahim Spahic, said that holding the conference in Sarajevo proves the city is a symbol of multiculturalism and inter-religious dialogue.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said the Balkans had always been a place where different religions and cultures mixed.
“Sarajevo was globalised before Europe,” Monti said, “The Balkans fuels hope the world can live in peace.”