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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Children lead in bridging ethnic divide

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
— Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

January 2008

Two children enjoy fun and games in the snow at World Vision's winter peace camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Ivana Vidovic, 13 (background), from Republika Srpska, enjoys fun and games in the snow with Neira Mustafic, 12, from the Bosniak/Croat Federation at World Vision's winter peace camp. The camp was the culmination of World Vision's efforts to bridge cultural gaps and bring reconciliation to communities in an Eastern European country torn by ethnic conflict. © 2007 Susan Cuthbert/World Vision
Schoolchildren and teachers from communities divided by bitter ethnic strife joined together to learn peace-building and cooperation skills at a winter camp in the Balkan country of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Participating schools came from the Bosniak/Croat Federation and Republika Srpska mini-states. Tensions between the communities remain high following years of war from 1992 to 1995.

The camp was the climax of World Vision's peace education project — a yearlong peace-building effort in 12 schools in northeastern Bosnia.

'Real people with pure souls'

World Vision education coordinator Maja Djukić said one aim of the project was to promote understanding and acceptance of cultural and ethnic diversity. Children embraced the program with enthusiasm, though initially there was some reluctance from teachers.

"It was difficult for many of them to sit and work together at the same table, yet they eventually found new friends on the other side," Djukić said.

Among them was participating teacher Muzijet Kahrimanovic from the Bosniak/Croat Federation. Kahrimanovic said at first he was shocked that his school principal selected him to be involved.

"It was really hard for me to accept the fact that I would work together with people from Republika Srpska," he said.

But later, he admitted the project had completely transformed his outlook. "It helped me to understand that real people exist in Republika Srpska — real people with pure souls. This is something I had to accept."

Activities to bridge gaps

Newly formed friendships transcended cultural and ethnic differences at World Vision's winter peace camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Newly formed friendships transcended cultural and ethnic differences at World Vision's winter peace camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
© 2007 Susan Cuthbert/World Vision

Altogether, 24 children attended the camp, which was held at a mountain lodge. All of them were representatives on student councils at their respective schools.

Teambuilding games included "Egg Package," where teams designed a package to prevent an egg from breaking when dropped; "Survival Scenario," where teams chose the 12 most useful items to survive following an imaginary plane crash; and "The Net," in which team members supported one another to pass through a net strung across the room.

'Everyone must help everyone else'

Participant Safet Memić, 13, said the camp had been a lot of fun and the children had learned a lot through games: "I've learned how to negotiate, to take a step back if necessary, and that everyone must help everyone else."

Maida Huseinović, 12, said children had made friends from both communities: "It's the first time I've had the chance to attend something like this and learn teamwork."

The Bosniak/Croat Federation is primarily composed of Bosniaks and Croats, while the Republika Srpska is dominated by Serbs. War between the different ethnic groups erupted in 1992 following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Peace was declared in 1995 after the signing of the Dayton peace agreement by the warring parties.

Learn more

>> Read an article about World Vision's efforts to spread the word of God's love across Eastern Europe, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, through its Youth Bible Curriculum program.

Two ways you can help

>> Pray for reconciliation and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a place marred by years of ethnic conflict. Pray that World Vision's peace-building efforts would help bring an increased understanding of and respect for cultural and ethnic diversity in communities across this Eastern European nation.
>> Donate now to World Vision's Youth Bible Curriculum program, which helps spread the word of God's love to children across Eastern Europe.

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