Leaders at Sarajevo meeting appeal for peace
World religious leaders issued an urgent call for peace after a three-day meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina that also featured an interfaith walk through the city’s streets and prayers at different houses of worship.
Saying that God has inspired “dreams of peace,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for Family, noted that Sarajevo “has endured the tragedy of war and death.”
During the 1991-95 Bosnian war, the city experienced a 44-month siege by Bosnian Serbs that resulted in 11,500 deaths.
The September 9-11 meeting was organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay group based in Rome and it included representatives of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu communities.
Approximately 200 attendees took part in some 30 discussions on such topics as poverty, immigration, religion in Asia and the Arab world, and Christian-Muslim dialogue.
Ecumenical groups were also represented. World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, challenged Christians to reject the concept of “enemy”, according to a WCC news release.
“Being here in Sarajevo, we are reminded that when the concept of neighbor is turned into the concept of enemy, everybody will lose, maybe even their lives,” he said. During the war, three groups — Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats — were involved in the fighting.
“I do not believe in the concept of enemy,” Tveit said. “As believers in God through the witness of Jesus Christ, we should not believe in the concept of enemy.”
He also mentioned the September 11 anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the US that took nearly 3,000 lives. “This day, September 11, shows us that even religion can be used as a motivation and pretext for the worst and most cruel actions against humankind, the ultimate effect of treating one another as enemies,” he said. “Terror is terror whatsoever the motivation might be.”
Christians are “reconciled to God by the death of Christ,” he said. “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; therefore, Jesus calls us to love our enemies,” Tveit added.
The theme for the conference was “Living Together is the Future: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.”
Co-organisers were the Islamic community of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vhrbosna-Sarajevo and the Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church, a member church of the WCC, also attended the event.
The WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.