Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival. - Rene Dubos
On June 30th, 2012 twenty-two Northeastern University students flew into Sarajevo International Airport to embark on a Dialogue of Civilizations program entitled â€œConflict Resolution and EU Accession Politicsâ€?. Over the course of one month we traveled across Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia to meet with politicians, diplomats, university students, religious leaders, and members of civil society (including group favorite, Maja Osmanagic!). The experience garnered tactile insights into the difficulties, aspirations, and quotidian affairs of persons throughout the Balkans; the region revealed a slough of unresolved tensions. I leave the former Yugoslav territory confounded with more questions than when I arrived.
Our six valiant leaders lent their insights (and logistical prowess) as we shuttled across the peninsula. From top right, clockwise: Middle East expert Dennis Sullivan, political theorist Will Lovely, Serbian national Mladen Mrdalj, sociologist Gordana Rabrenovic, recent Belgrade resident Tori Porell, and Co-op Advisor Joani Lamachia.
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA These are Olympic ruins, Hallucinating force: Muscle, nerve, steel, and ice Exploding, roaring above Sarajevo Past yearning spectators, Native and foreign, Who spurned distance, needing No translation for ecstasy. Now useless permanence, Intimacy’s stripped, severed spine Unmooring, firing pain Through whoever will come. You say: enough of the shadows, The canvas of exile. Life is waiting, steep, sun-drenched, The landmines mostly cleared. -Tom Simpson
PHYSICAL REMNANTS OF CONFLICT
Sarajevo is lauded for its natural and architectural beauty. Nestled in verdant hillsides and divided by a slowly flowing river, the red roofs of the cityâ€™s modest houses emit a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The heart of Sarajevo is enlivened by local culture and a bustling flow of tourists who can walk the modern streets of Europe at one moment and submerge themselves in a Middle Eastern bazaar the next. This juxtaposition was a source of constant intrigue. Of further interest, a keen eye could sporadically spot remnants of the war in the form of shrapnel-scarred sidewalks (marked by the red Sarajevo Rose, seen above) and more apparent derelict buildings that have been left untouched for seventeen years. This destruction serves as a daily reminder of the ethnic divisions that incited conflict between Bosniaks and Serbians.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA PRESIDENCY
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA PRESIDENCY
Mid-meeting we were slightly taken aback by a spontaneous visit by Bosniak President Bakir Izetbegovic. When the president entered the meeting room we stood in unison, methodically shook his hand, and listened as he shared his appreciation for having taken our time to understand the political difficulties confronting the Bosnian government. Several days later, I recognized President Izetbegovic on the street outside the Presidential Palace during the Srebrenica memorial procession â€“ his presence reflected his solidarity with the countryâ€™s still-grieving citizenry.