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April 3 2012 | SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

International Peace Conference in the martyred city of Sarajevo, September 9-11, 2012

Twenty years after the tragedy of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina

 
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The Community of Sant’Egidio and the Archdiocese of Vrhbosna-Sarajevo, in close collaboration with the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Islamic and Jewish Communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are promoting the most important event of religious and political dialogue since the war.

Hundreds of religious leaders of all faiths, from the Balkans and the rest of the world, as well as cultural and civil authorities, will be meeting in Sarajevo from September 9 to 11 on the invitation of the Community of Sant’Egidio and Cardinal Vinko Puljic to discuss important issues of the contemporary world and modern history.

The event is being announced on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo.

The initiative is fully supported by the BiH State and all the governmental realities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and will be marked by the participation of the leaders of the world’s great religions as well as Heads of State and major international political and cultural figures.
The event falls into the realm of the annual meetings of inter-religious dialogue – following the 25th edition in Munich – promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio in the “spirit of Assisi, the historic Day of Prayer promoted by the Blessed John Paul II in 1986.

The meeting in Sarajevo – place of suffering and of hope, an ancient society of co-existence – aims to stress the culture of living together as a European value and a European proposal to the whole world.

Program: Plenary assembly on the afternoon of Sunday, September 9; thirty Panels on the latest issues of the ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue of co-existence and the search for peace in modern society; Final Ceremony on the evening of Tuesday, September 11, in the heart of the old city, where a joint Peace Appeal will be announced and signed.

On Thursday, April 26, at 11:00 AM, a news conference presenting the event  will be held in the seminary hall in Sarajevo where John Paul II was greeted during his historic visit in 1997.

The international media will need accreditation to attend. The Community of Sant’Egidio is available for arranging preparations and attendance at the event. (Piazza di S.Egidio 3/a – 00153 Roma - Tel 39.06585661  -  Fax 39.065883625  – com@santegidio.org).

 

Sarajevo, twenty years later...

"These days, specifically April 5, 2012 – Holy Thursday – mark the twentieth anniversary of the tragic war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and of the dramatic siege of the city of Sarajevo.

It was the longest siege of the twentieth century, from April 1992 to February 1996. Four years of violence, suffering, of daily bombings…a particular noise to which my ears became accustomed, so much so that today I am forced to wear an ear device in order to restore my hearing lost in those days.

Twenty years is still too short to narrate what happened in Sarajevo, which has always been a city of exemplary co-existence between Christians, Jews and Muslims. But it is also a city of pain and conflict. In a way, Sarajevo encompasses the  beginning and the end of every war of the 20th century. It was in Sarajevo, in fact, that the first World War originated. Sarajevo was the theater of the last tragic conflict of the 1900’s. Sarajevo, city of suffering and hope. In his historic visit in 1997, Pope John Paul II called Sarajevo the “Jerusalem of Europe”…

But what happened in Sarajevo? A violent and senseless war – like every war – that taught many people to believe that Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims and Jews could not live together. A contrast between Croatians, Serbians, Bosnians. A reality of different peoples who for ages lived together and suddenly began to divide, to oppose each other….
As bishop of the city, I wanted to stay. I was the pastor of all the inhabitants of Sarajevo. I did not flee. I stayed with my people for all four years of the siege, sharing day after day the suffering and the fragile hope for the future. But was there a future? What future is there for 11,000 people killed by bombs fired haphazardly all day, from morning to night, from the cannons situated on the mountains surrounding the city. Two thousand children were killed, Jews, Christians and Muslims, whose names are listed together on five pillars in one of the main squares of the city. The children of Sarajevo. And many others affected by tumors caused by the low enriched uranium (LEU) used in the bombs… Yet, there had to be a future for everyone…We are Christians, we love life and we believe that a future may always exist, that war is never the last word…

So many personal memories of those long, interminable years… I wanted to be the bishop of everyone, Catholics, Orthodox, Jews and Muslims, even of non believers. I realized deep down that during the violence of war it is all the more urgent and perhaps clearer, that perhaps all the time, yes, all the time, a bishop is called upon to be everyone’s bishop…

I would also like to talk about how important friendship and contact with others are when we are alone, surrounded by evil, threatened everyday, under siege like in Sarajevo. My thoughts go to the friendship and profound communion with John Paul II. My thoughts go to my meeting with him in January 1993, for the prayers held in Assisi for the Balkans. We were still under siege.

Twenty years from the tragedy of war and the siege of Sarajevo, I am pleased to announce with joy that together with the Community of Sant’Egidio we are preparing a big international meeting for peace in Sarajevo. It will take place from September 9th to 11th and will gather representatives of Christian churches and of the other great religions, to say together NO to war, to violence, to division. To say that a future exists for everyone and it exists only by living together. There is no future without co-existence for Sarajevo, for Bosnia and Herzegovina, for Europe and for the whole world.
I truly hope that a major message of peace can rise from Sarajevo and spread to every land and every population, throughout the whole world. Sarajevo, city of division, of war and of suffering can become the city of a dream for peace for Europe and the world. Peace, co-existence and equality. I invite all of you to be with us in Sarajevo next September."

April 5, 2012
Sarajevo, 5. travnja 2012

His eminency Cardinal Vinko Pulic
Archbishop of Vrhbosna-Sarajevo

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