Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina (Monday, 06-08-2015, Gaudium Press) Pope Francis’ visit to Sarajevo has brought some hope to Bosnia-Herzegovina, a nation still divided by ethnic strife. Yet, a new generation may play a crucial role in rebuilding the Balkan nation.
Pope Francis briefly met the powerful. But he soon turned his attention to the young, shaking hands with each of some 150 children dressed in traditional costumes of all ethnic groups at Sarajevo’s airport. Taking them as examples, he told crowds to be “artisans of peace”.
Those words, once used by Pope John Paul II in Madrid, Spain, when addressing 600.000 youngsters in 2003, seem more actual than ever. Bosnia-Herzegovina still suffers of the wounds of war when this reporter had to run for snipers.
In Sarajevo, shelling forced me to stay the night in what was a Jewish community center. Local radio played Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. The words “now the end is near” blasted through the air waves amid shooting. “Perhaps history repeats itself,” said a Jewish leader referring to World War I that began here in Sarajevo.
On a nearby bridge, a dead body. Nobody dared to pick it up. Days later, after escaping Sarajevo, I and my television colleagues were stopped by armed men. My Bible fell on the ground. Miraculously it opened a page where it says love your enemies. Everyone could continue the journey.
Some years and more than 100,000 deaths later, the warring factions halted the fighting. Yet, a decade after the Dayton peace accords were signed, tensions remain. The largest Serb party wants a referendum on independence for the country’s autonomous Serb Republic in 2018, unless the region is granted greater powers.
But convinced of Christ’s grace, Pope Francis, spoke of hope in Sarajevo, perhaps the Jerusalem of Europe. He sought reconciliation between the country’s Muslims, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats.
Especially after witnessing smiles on the faces of those too young to know war.
Source Vatican Radio