Each of us has some special missions in his or her life, but some people have more than others, and they are the chosen ones, as we are. The twenty of us are Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors in the region of Western Balkans, and that is not an easy task to do. Our mission is to spread understanding and cooperation and to develop integrations and reconciliation in this ‘sensitive region’.
When people hear the word ambassador, they usually think of privileges and benefits that diplomats usually have, but those are the opinions of the superficial ones. To be an ambassador, especially with such a delicate mission, is honour, but also both great responsibility and obligation. However, it does not imply its being a mission impossible.
We, Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors, all went through the same things within the programme ‘European integrations as a tool for regional cooperation’. Now, we are given an opportunity to start changing our world, at least on a micro level. Although we all come from different surroundings, share different cultural patterns, practise different religions and speak different or similar languages, above all, we are humans, and we should bear that in our minds.
Three weeks have passed after this study visit is finished, but it is nothing comparing how much time we spent living and being ignorant and passive! There is one dictum in the country which I come from: if You want to change the world, You should change yourself first. At the begginning of the Programme, we, Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors, were different, but identical at the same time: we listened to the same lectures, ate the same food, shared happy moments of social life, but also painful experiences from the past of our peoples. We might have had suspicions related to the outcome of this programme, we might not. But, we went out different and more decisive than we have ever been before this common moment of ‘sobering up’.
Even though I have always tried not to have prejudice (and always will), I must confess that I found out things that I would never dream of. I was shocked, I was appalled…I was enlightened. I heard about war crimes, genocides, murders… that did occurr. I thought I knew many things, but even more things came up and were revealed, as if Pandora’s box were opened. Actually, it has just set an avalanche into motion. I knew that I had to do something in terms of the reconciliation process, because it is both my moral duty and personal need. I have already had that in my inner being and that has never been in collision with my personal feelings, intellectual background and moral standards. I knew that I had to start doing something. I knew that it was crucial to be an actor, not a talker, because, as the American president Theodore Roosevelt once said: “…the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.“ (Theodore Roosevelt, „Citizenship in a Republic“, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)
Since I have never been a slave to stereotypes, prejudice and rumours, I am ready to follow my feelings and moral that has been moulded by my upbringing, culture and education. In my opinion, it is not necessary to have specific places for the actions and activities directed at the process of reconciliation. It could be anywhere and anytime. Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors must not have working time (and office), because this is work for 24/7 doers.
In order to support the previous statements, I will mention the steps that I fully intend to undertake and that will surely contribute to the reconciliation process in the Region.
First, since my job is to educate people, I have an opportunity to spread positive thoughts and atmosphere when talking about boosting cooperation among the peoples of Western Balkans within young people as students are, and a large number of them. Some of them were not even born when the war outbroke in ex-Yugoslavia and they might not be familiar with what was really happening. They might have lived (and still live) imbued with hatred, narrow-mindedness and intolerance. Their eyes should be re-opened, because we have to go on, we have to re-build bridges that once collapsed and make foundations for the new phase of the Balkans’ relations.
Second, I am also a student of cultural studies, at which I mostly deal with the phenomena of multiculturalism, through which I also learned to respect differences and to promote development of multi-lateral relations at all levels and in all fields. Consequently, living according to the motto pluribus unum1 is something natural to me, so I would gladly widen this topic through my works that I am writing, academic circles that I have been moving through and researches that I have been working on.
Last, but not least, I would, with the utmost effort, try to familiarise all people around myself about the initiative I have taken and also try to involve them in the process of the regional reconciliation in some way. I would also try to be a more active citizen and also to take part more in the activities that would lead to the achievement of that goal. I strongly believe that it is significant to make the network of people who will be actively involved, spreading the message to others.
As one other American president said: “Our destiny offers, not the cup of despair, but the chalice of opportunity. So let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness—and, „riders on the earth together,“ let us go forward, firm in our faith, steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers; but sustained by our confidence in the will of God and the promise of man.” (Richard Milhous Nixon, First Inaugural Address, January 20th, 1969)