“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace“
(lyrics from song “Imagine“, John Lennon, Beatles)
Region of Western Balkan is well known through history as a area of constant wars and conflicts. One of the most violent conflicts that marked recent history is still present in everyday life of it`s citizens and it is standing on the way of development and prospective future. War wounds are still fresh even 20 years after and restrain all important proccesess and regional cooperation. I`m asking: Are we finally ready to move on? Are we ready for reconciliation? Did we done enough to make sure 90ies won`t happen again to our children? Did we arrested and brought to justice responsible individuals or groups? I`m saying we because it is responsibility of every single person, regardless what is their religion or nationality, their age or political believes, education level or position they have in society. Every individual has obligation as a citizen and as a human being to give his contribution to regional reconciliation.
I was 3 years old when this nightmare started. Years and various conditions gave wide set of different names to this nightmare from local war, regional conflict to civil war and ethnic extermination. For me it was a nightmare and still is in some ways. It`s true that I was a baby and didn`t have any impact on events which lately defined my life. I didn`t choose conflict and wasn`t in any way responsible for war, killings, bad decisions, madness and rule of nationalism. But now as a grown up person I have obligation to work on process of reconciliation and healing. In terms of regional reconciliation accent is on us as individuals and community because we are the strongest power that can bring change. Politicians, the intellectual elite, the religious dignitaries and media play important role in reconciliation process but in many ways they failed. In some cases made things even worse. Politicians are gaining their positions on nationalism and pointing out crimes of other ethnic group presenting them as enemies. Intellectuals are under strong influence of political circumstances. Religion can be a very powerful tool in the process of reconciliation but it is often misused. The media has a big influence because they create public opinion and give objective and critical view. Bearing in mind all this we must take responsibility for ourselves, start to work on process of reconciliation. Denial is very dangerous because in our system it is very common to see denial of obligation and denial of interpretation. Everyone, especialy young people, deserve and need to know what happend and why, who is responsible and what are the historic facts. As we learned from past and saw from our own experience history has a major role in producing the war. It starts first by changing history in school books, poisining youngsters with hatred and giving them one-way sight on historical events. That is why multi-perspective approach to history education has crucial importance for reconciliation. Reconciliation in this region is understood as forgiveness. In my opinion, process of reconciliation includes forgiveness but main components are acknowledgment of facts, discovering the truth about all crimes committed from all participated sides, trials for war criminals, guarantees that crimes won`t happen again for the sake of our children and creating awareness about mutual future. It is about re-cooperation and bringing and building peace both on individual and collective level. This is still not achieved in our region, especially in Bosnia where there are three totally opposite views on recent history and three conflicting truths.
Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, three ethnic groups or, officially, constituent peoples, a term unique for Bosnia and Herzegovina, live side by side but not together. Hatred and ethnic division is something we all live with every single day. In this rainy and gloomy gray everyday circle frequently there are great rainbows, rays of hope that we are ready for reconciliation, that justice is being served in right way and victims are respected.
It was interesting for me to hear reactions and oppinions in my surrounding after program „Youth reconciliation ambassadors“. I faced three types of reactions from people around me : approval, disapproval and silence. First group of my friends and coulegues supports and encourages this idea of reconciliation and sees it as a right and only way of living. Second group is strongly opposing to this idea with clear signs of hatred and nationalism in their speech, calling me a traitor. One of my friends said he is deeply disappointed in me and my actions and was sure I betrayed my country and tortured victims by participating in program organized and held in Serbia. He didn`t want to listen to me or to try to understand my story and reasons. In fact, I was disappointed in him. Third group show no visible reaction, silence was their answer and their question. I don`t think they ignore this situation and the reason of their silence isn`t lack of interest. They just don`t want to take any of two mentioned sides.
The process of reconciliation is based on the acceptance of the past, recognition of all sides involved in the process, communication, tolerance and coexistence. It is a very laborious and time-consuming process and not easily achieved. Reconciliation is issue that strongly concerns me as a citizen of area recently affected by a conflict. It affects my life in every sense and it is there when I sleep but also when I wake up. Because of importance of reconciliation we need to try to find a best solution for deep-rooted problems and best answers for difficult questions.
Mirjana Toma, from “Humanitarian Law Centre” said “You can`t give a national answer to regional conflicts”. I agree with this. And I think we are ready for reconciliation.