Why Bosnian Activists Inspire Me

Bosnia Trnoplje

By Asger Pedersen

This month we held the Project for Peacebuilding 2017 in northern Bosnia for the fourth time. One of the main reason why I keep doing it and continue to come back is because of the many great people that we meet during the week:speakers, activists, journalists, and many more. I am astonished by the resilience and strength of these people. Activists in the local community are working, each in their own way, to create a better future in Bosnia.

On the 5th of August, we went to the commemoration in Trnopolje in remembrance of the closing of the camp 25 years ago. Bosnians walked from the nearby city of Kosarac to Trnopolje were they gathered in remembrance of those who lost their life. Although most were Bosniaks, the event was visited by Serbs and Croats as well, showing support and remembering those who were detained and disappeared in the camps. Groups like KVART are trying to mobilize a social movement that does not define the local community through nationality, ethnicity, or religion. Twenty-five years ago their community was destroyed as neighbors forced neighbors into concentration camps in which thousands died and even more were displaced and fled their homes. Now activists–Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats alike–are fighting to rebuild their communities. They are working to destroy the narrative of “us vs them.” Trying to establish a new one that is based on peace and solidarity.

Bosnia OmarskaPeace and solidarity was also visible the day after, as we went to the commemoration in the Omarska mining complex, which was one of the biggest concentration camps during the war. We were reminded of the cruelties that occurred in the beginning of the war. It is only once a year, on the 6th of August, that people are allowed into this place. Yet there were no hateful signs or aggressive protest on the day. It was a peaceful commemoration that paid tribute to the thousands who lost their life in the camp and the ones who still have not been found.

In a time were the European discourse is increasingly portraying Muslims as an antithesis to the Western democracy, it is inspiring to witness how they themselves deal with the atrocities that occurred to them in this country. They have every reason to hate the neighbors that tried to eradicate them. Yet there is a strong group of activists in the community that are fighting to create a community that is united. For me it would only be normal if they wanted to distance themselves from these neighbors. Yet they don’t. They won’t.

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