Nansen Dialogue Centre in Prejedor
recently wrote this article
Why is there need for „Touch of Hope“ programme in Prijedor ?
Faced with war atrocities and casualties , big migrations took place during the war in the 90's in Prijedor and Sanski Most; now the majority of population in Prijedor are Serbs and in Sanski Most the majority are Bosniaks. Prijedor is turned towards Republika Srpska and Sanski Most is focused towards Federation of Bosnia and Herzogovina . The Current socio-political situation, defined by actions of political leaders, brought more radicalisation along ethnic lines with effects on all parts of society , uncertainty and fear from another armed conflict for people in Bosnia and Herzogovina It is the most important to address (institutional) challenges in inter-ethnic relations, integration, communication and co-operation in B&H, especially in cross-entity neighbouring municipalities such as Prijedor and Sanski Most. (that is the project of Nansen Dialogue Centre in Prijedor).
NDC Prijedor and “Touch of Hope” bring with them a neutral image and credibility, The Touch of Hope programme with trainers that are facilitators and mediators in dialogue, provide continuity of important inter-ethnic work in Prijedor region and support efforts to focus on the process of learning to live in a reconciling way. In the two workshops which were held in Prijedor and Teslic a relaxed atmosphere was created in a safe and neutral environment which enabled the multi-ethnic group of participants to have dialogue and share with each other.With participants that come from municipalities burdened with the consequences of war and their past, trust was built among participants which enabled all participants to discuss issues important for them on individual and group level, to discuss potential solutions to their current problems, but also support them in actions that would lead to these solutions. By coming home, participants also share their experiences at work and in their public engagement, making this process inclusive and multiplying thus significantly supporting healing, reconciliation process, improvement of inter-ethnic relations, communication and co-operation that support sustainable peaceful co-existence.
Work in Bosnia & Herzogovina (BIH)
After years of seeking a partner I am pleased to report that the Nansen Dialogue Centre in Prijedor has agreed to work with us. So the plan is to commence our basic training on March 4th.
There are 2 entities in BIH: the Federation which consists mainly of Bosniaks and Croats, and Republika Srpska which is predominantly Serb. Prijedor is situated in Republika Srpska and has a population of around 100,000 people. The nearest big city is Banja Luka.
Numerous war crimes were committed in Prijedor and the surrounding area during the war in Bosnia in 1992.
The Nansen Dialogue Centre opened in 2010 with the aim of improving inter-ethnic communication. Our contacts will be Tanja and Tijana whom we met in Prijedor in November. Already 20 teachers from the area have been recruited for the initial workshop in March.
This marks a significant development in our work and we look forward to our cooperation with the Centre.
What have we been up to since the last edition of Footprint ?! The answer is LOTS !
In October we welcomed 5 women from Serbia and 7 from Croatia to Barnes Close, the residential centre for CFR. The theme of the visit was ‘Making a difference in our communities’. The visit also included a visit to Coventry Cathedral where we had a chance to reflect on the visit with one of the Interns working at the Cathedral. We had a very insightful visit to Nuneaton Mosque and were made very welcome there. The group stayed in the Nuneaton, Lutterworth, and Hinckley area and once again we are grateful to the hosts who opened up their homes to our guests.
Members of the group took part in morning services and shared their experiences at the Saturday open evening. I was impressed by the way in which Wetherspoons looked after us for a lunch and I contacted them to compliment them. This has led to a feature in their national magazine about the visit of the group to Wetherspoons. Thank you !
Whilst at Barnes Close we celebrated 20 years of our involvement in the region by inviting people who had been involved with the previous project BENCH WE SHARE. This was a lovely event at which Margaret Aiken from Acocks Green Methodist Church spoke about the work with young people in Baranja, near Osijek which was one of the offshoots of Bench we Share when I moved from Birmingham in 1998. The link with Margaret and the young people in Baranja is still maintained through an annual play scheme being held in Baranja .
ALSO at this event we paid tribute to DUSANKA ILIC who died in tragic circumstances in the Summer. Without Dusanka there would be no Touch of Hope. I met her in April 1996 on my Sabbatical and was so impressed with her work of opening up communication between the different ethnic groups in the aftermath of the war in that region. It is hoped to organise a Memorial event for Dusanka in Osijek soon as she made a significant contribution to peace work and was involved in the early work of the Centre for Peace, Non Violence and Human Rights in Osijek. The Centre was our early partner.
The other significant development is the progress of our trainee Facilitators. To date three trainees have planned and run workshops in their own communities. We anticipate more in the coming months. What is exciting is the fact that 10 participants from previous study visits to the UK are now wanting to train as facilitators. Plus, we have the original group of 12. Judith and I try to involve trainee facilitators in all our workshops so that they gain as much experience as possible. So the training of new people is a priority!
As well as our work in Croatia and Bosnia we shall be continuing work in Serbia with our partner Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation (EHO) and with the Methodist Church in Serbia. We aim to do all three units of training.
Thoughts on Reconciliation fromm Jan Scott of Community for Reconciliaation
Some thoughts on Reconciliation
I have been part of the Community for Reconciliation (CfR) for nearly 30 years and Chair of Trustees for nearly 8 years. For a small organization we are quite complex and it is not easy to say in a few words what we are about – CfR is different things to different people. You may have visited Barnes Close, the home of CfR. But CfR is much more than that. A recent review of our overseas work was very encouraging. Projects in Romania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and previously India are well supported. But you know most about Footprints and the fact that you are reading this is demonstration of your support for the work that Clive Fowle and others have been doing in the former Yugoslavia for many years. I recently visited Croatia and Serbia as part of a small group led by Clive and Inderjit Bhogal and just over a year ago I visited our partners in Kenya and Rwanda. So what have I learned about reconciliation in these and other travels?
Relationships are broken in many situations – between individuals within family life, in churches and in society at local, national and international levels. Reconciliation is positive but often costly. It involves finding a creative way forward where there are differences; healing where there is hurt; opposing injustice and working for peace. We therefore seek reconciliation within ourselves, between each other, and between God and us. At the heart of this is the costly sacrifice of Jesus, bringing about our reconciliation to God.
While it can be summed up in a short paragraph, the outworking of reconciliation is varies in different contexts. There are however, common themes.
My visit to Rwanda, just over 20 years after the genocide came the same week as the Africa Leaders were meeting in Kigali. Security was tight as planes came and went bearing various Heads of State. (You will remember that the genocide was prompted by the shooting down, over Kigali, of a plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994.) However my first impressions of Rwanda, having previously spent two weeks in Kenya, were of a clean, quiet country with many new buildings. Yes, there are poor areas are Kigali, but nothing on the scale of the slums around Nariobi. I was told that it was safe for me to walk to the shops and cafes of the central business district on my own - in daylight. This was not the case in Nairobi where the Catholic Retreat House where I stayed was surrounded by high walls and a big gate manned by at least one security guard. I was advised not to venture out, not even to the market a couple of blocks away. I was driven everywhere. Having visited Kenya in my 20s and, with a couple of (female) friends wandered around wherever we fancied, this came as an unpleasant surprise.
So back to Kigale, where I was welcomed by a group of young women learning to sew. At the end of their course they will have a skill and with some business support and a smattering of English they will be able to earn a living. These are girls born around the time of the genocide, often as a result of rape, with no family support. They were interested in my family and when one discovered I have a son in his 20s, did her best to convince me that she would be an ideal wife for him!
At Rukumbura, a small village, an hour’s drive from Kigale, I was welcomed by a group of women singing and dancing. They showed me their banana plantation, rainwater harvesting, bee hives, sewing and carpentry classes - all set up with overseas support. CfR has recently sent them money to buy 30 goats. All these resources are for the benefit of the whole community - not just those who are able to work. The majority of adults are living with AIDS as well as the psychological trauma of past events. When I asked whether they get fed up of well-meaning, middle-aged, white women visiting, they replied “No, it makes us feel safe.”
There are many villages like Rukumbura. Our partners in Rwanda have facilitated countless mediation workshops and other projects in the last 20 years. Is this very different from those workshops led by Clive and Judith in Croatia? Probably not. However, I was struck by the Government’s decision to release thousands of perpetrators of the genocide from prison - the prisons were far too full and those who had killed less than 100 people - deemed to be lesser criminals - were sent back to their villages. There, they were tried in the Gacaca Courts and now live alongside the families of their victims. Such prisoners, doing community service, keep the city and countryside clean and tidy. One important element of the Reconciliation Workshops is that everyone eats together. This is initially a problem as each side is convinced that the other will poison them - they refuse to eat and to speak, until with prayer and patience one person will share their experience and another will say that her experience was similar. Gradually they all share and eat together.
It is estimated that about 90% of Rwandans will say that they are Christians, and the church has considerable influence. Communities meet regularly for worship, prayer and teaching. Undoubtedly there has been a vast amount of healing and reconciliation, however . . . remember I mentioned a plane crash in 1994 was the catalyst that started 100 days of killing. Within hours of the crash, road blocks were set up and guns were readily available. All was prepared in advance for this genocide. Did no-one see it coming? Did no-one try to stop it? What did the churches do? Where was God in all this? Can we prevent something similar happening again? What is our responsibility?
In the Genocide Memorial in Kigale, there are displays of other such conflicts around the world, including the former Yugoslavia and the Holocaust. I believe we must be prayerful and vigilant - and ready to speak up or to act when necessary.
Church and Peace
Peace Church in a world of conflict? Answering the biblical call to nonviolence.
This day of reflection and discussion will look at how we can be true to our vocation as peace churches in a world where we can feel that our message is not being heard and is regarded as impractical.
How can we lead faithful lives when all around us we see violence and conflict? How can we encourage and support one another to link belief and practice, to bring the biblical call to nonviolence from the margins to the centre of the churches, and how can Church and Peace help us in this?
In the morning session we will hear from: Sue Claydon (Anglican Pacifist Fellowship) Alexandra Ellish (Development worker, Anabaptist Network) Clive Fowle (Methodist Minister, Mediator, Coordinator Touch of Hope Peacebuilding programme Croatia,Serbia and Bosnia ) The session will be chaired by Marisa Johnson (General Secretary of the Quaker European & Middle East Section of Friends World Committee for Consultation)
Workshop/discussion groups will take place in the afternoon.
Date: Saturday 28th October, 10.30 – 16.00 Venue: Quaker Meeting House, 40 Bull St, Birmingham B4 6AF The event is free of charge. A vegetarian soup and sandwich lunch can be booked at a cost of £7.00.
Registration and further information
Please register by 20th October
A regional gathering on the way to the Church and Peace international conference 21–24 June 2018 at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.
Church and Peace brings together Christian communities, congregations, study centres, peace organisations, and individuals across Europe who are committed to becoming a peace church. Its members seek to live out the Gospel call to nonviolence through shared worship, theological reflection, and practical action for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.