“Justice in the life and conduct of the state is possible only if resides
in the hearts and souls of the citizens”1
As of this September I have become a Youth Reconciliation Ambassador. “Come in Belgrade meet the region” was the slogan under which we have attempted to envision more politically sustainable and peaceful future for the Balkan. A week filled with desire for knowledge, facts and new perspectives threw the ever-lasting Balkan transitional justice schema out of “equilibrium”. In what followed, I witnessed heated debates, arguments and counter-arguments, history lessons – some already learned and some never heard off, up beat nationalism contrasted with the messy globalism and of course the good God (how I would have forgot him). Here is my story of the event.
First things first, let me tell you about the collapse of the time that I had experienced during the seminar. Have you ever had that feeling when you listen to a story and all of a sudden the story becomes so vivid and it just feels like you are in it, with all the goose bumps and the chills, well that is when a time collapse. And that happened here too. During the seminar, ex Yugoslavia came into being as once truly was. Our collective traumas were in full blast fuelled by the historical premises of the past. O boy, I could easily see that the hand of the past traumas has touched each one of us either directly or indirectly.
I have been thought that; rage, guilt, fear and shame are often passed form one generation to the next and now I could feel it too. It materialized without much pressure in the story of the Serbian girl on Kosovo that had to leave her hometown, in the story of the Bosnian boy who saw his home country splits in enclaves and massive graveyards, of the story of the Muslim boy from Kosovo who had to fight the paramilitaries ravaging through his village and the story goes on and on. At moments I thought, is there a stop? Would be a time for us, people on the Balkan when we will stop live in the past and start creating the future of you and me together? Or is not the time yet? The answer should follow.
Yet, let me tell you, that no story during the seminar was told in order to blame somebody or to shame it. It all unraveled for the sake of the given arguments and the needed clarifications for better understanding and accounting. At the end, no reconciliation is possible if the worst that had happened is unknown or denied. I believe that there are no viable political solutions to interethnic conflicts until we understand and take into consideration the needs, emotions and the loss suffered. Indeed, while opening up about our collective sufferings we paved the way towards the process of the reconciliation. Bridging our collective traumas into recognized past events out of which no one ever came clean or experienced any good is where reconciliation starts.
Nevertheless, one asked but is compassion and empathy enough? What about justice? No healing can take place without a justice! And I hear you my friend and agree on one level, justice is one of the greatest virtues of our lives and we must stand for it. But on the other level, should we wait around for justice for some kind of reparation to take place and by that get excused for the ever-lasting transition in between? Gandhi has said, “An aye for an eye will only make the whole world blind”. I say, besides promoting justice we have to learn how to forgive and how to reconnect. And that time was yesterday rather than today but it is never too late.
Let’s not forget that the one of the most important issue for EU is the rule of law. As once the founding father of America said, “The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of the government”2. Accordingly, no country that would not sufficiently reform and establish rule of law will ever get in the EU family. However, we have not, yet, come just with our past. Justice has to reach the crimes of ex-Yugoslavia’s wars and the conflicts that happened in Kosovo and Macedonia in order for us to fully reconcile and get closely integrated. If unresolved, the crimes that happened during the wars and the conflicts that engulfed the Balkan at the end of the 20th century would only breed hatred and ethnical divisions among the people. Meanwhile, it is up to us to work out social and political solutions that will foster regional respect and mutual understanding.
The way forward
The Youth Reconciliation Ambassador title is a great honor, but is not only a title it is an attitude, a way of living. My future actions will promote inter-ethnic tolerance and regional cooperation. I say, lets focus on the similarities and bridge the differences at the end of the day we share the same needs for love, security, and personal and professional recognition. A universal needs that can only be addressed in socially, politically, and economically stable countries.
Together with my fellow Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors we have only started to pave the way towards our belated reconciliation. It is up on each of us now to deliver the story in our city to our friends and citizens. I have learned that I have to be the change I want to see in the region and invite you to take that stance with me too. Our decisions of today are our future of tomorrow. It is as simple as that. Let’s create a model of integrative way of working by combining intercultural communication and mutual understanding. Dear, Bosnians, Serbians, Macedonians, Kosovars and the rest please hear me: the reconciliation does not have alternative, if we want to move forward we have to divorce the past and start creating the future. No one can do that but us.
Youth Reconciliation Ambassador