Moving beyond “business as usual” in the Church : Working for reconciliation in a divided society Documentation from a seminar with Christian peacemakers from the Balkans Introduction
Moving beyond “business as usual” in the Church : Working for reconciliation in a divided society
Documentation from a seminar with Christian peacemakers from the Balkans
For more than ten years members of the Church and Peace network have had partners in the different countries in crisis of the Balkans region. The services that these members and their partners provide range from humanitarian aid to mediation to refugee assistance, job creation, nonviolent conflict resolution training, trauma counseling and reconstruction. Over the years working relationships and friend-ship have been nourished which transcend borders, disregarding the boundaries drawn by public opinion or governments.
It seemed logical after more than ten years to reinforce these contacts through a gathering intended to provide the opportunity to meet, to take time out, to bring others up to date and to envision together work for peace in the future. Such a meeting took place in Elspeet in the Netherlands over nearly a weeks’ time (24-29 April). It was a meeting in two stages: an invitational seminar of three days’ length followed by an international conference bringing together members and friends in the network from across Europe. This pamphlet attempts to give an account of the first meeting and the feedback we received both in Elspeet and in the weeks following the seminar.
Fourteen participants - from Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Vojvodina, Kosovo/a, and Macedonia, from a range of church denominations and from diverse professional backgrounds - responded to Church and Peace’s invitation. An equal number of persons - staff and members of the Church and Peace network - came from France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. For some of the participants it was the first time in ten years that they had come face to face with the “enemy”, and consequently dialogue did not take place immediately. Whether during the seminar sessions or outside of the formal program, it took some time for the tense atmosphere to relax.
The contents of this pamphlet illustrate the different phases of the seminar:
• First phase: a historical analysis of the Yugoslav crisis presented by the Baptist pastor Aleksandar Birvis from Belgrade. This analysis met with severe criticism. For the sole Orthodox participant the analysis was an attack on his church and ignored its suffering. A Bosnian participant from the United Methodist Church felt that the analysis revealed an unjustified fear of Islam and treated the Yugoslav crisis as an internal conflict rather than a war of aggression against independent countries. Due to his experiences in Sarajevo and Mostar, this participant does not share Professor Birvis’ opinion regarding separatism and rejects the idea that the inhabitants of the Balkan region always seem ready to invent enemies. The participants from the West questioned the affirmation that what Prof. Birvis calls “Byzantine mentality” is unique to that region as it resembles very strongly the mentality of quite a number of political leaders in western democracies. Discussion about these questions was very animated, at times stormy even, and as such highlighted the complexity of the problems at hand and revealed strong emotions. At times one could observe certain chain reactions: the criticism of the official church brought protest from the Orthodox participant who then recounted the history of the Serbian Orthodox people, emphasizing their suffering and losses over the centuries; in response the Kosovar Albanian participant recalled the suffering of her people...
Discussion concerning the Church was not any less emotionally charged. The central topic was the place occupied by evangelical churches in the Balkans. Are they a source of unity - because they welcome people of diverse backgrounds and because their organizations will aid anyone regardless of religion or nationality? Or are they an additional source of division in a society distrustful of pluralism? Here as well opinions were divided: a Serbian Baptist and a Macedonian Pentecostal spoke of the rejection and ostracism experienced by Protestant churches from the majority of the Orthodox tradition. The Bosnian Methodist was confident in his consideration that Protestant churches can and must find their place in Balkan society. The debate remains open and must be pursued. However, the discussion at Elspeet illustrates that this is a delicate subject and one that must be addressed with much sensitivity.
Second phase: Joe Campbell, mediator from Northern Ireland, urged his listeners to take a new look at inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflicts. He mentioned steps that have been taken in his country, the conditions necessary for reconciliation work and the churches’ contribution to the peace process.
Not all of what he presented could be transposed directly to the situation in the Balkans but his contribution made the participants aware of essential truths and the fruits of years of experience which give hope and encouragement for other situations. Mr Campbell’s input is a challenge, in particular to the churches, to look forward, to be creative, to get involved. His plea to fight indifference, routine, apathy, self-pity reaches and touches his listeners. The examples he gives speak of thirty years of experience in peace and reconciliation work, experience which make his contribution very convincing.
Prayer times each morning and evening provided a spiritual base for the meeting, inviting the participants to rediscover the source that had brought them together. By including excerpts from the devotional booklet prepared by Sr. Irmtraud from the Communauté de Grandchamp, we have tried to reflect the spirit of these prayer times in this pamphlet.
Is it possible to evaluate the impact of such a seminar? Some of the participants from the Balkans gave their impressions of the meeting:
“I realized during this meeting that we do not really know each other - what we do and believe is totally foreign for the other person. That’s why we are enemies. We need to be ready to talk to each other, trust each other, appreciate and love each other before a conflict can develop... We must support people and encourage them to be daring: to approach those who are different, to work at better understanding each other and to live with difference.”
“The seminar and conference in Elspeet enabled me to take a break from my involvements for few days, to learn about new kinds of peacemaking activities and to meet new people. The meetings confirmed my sense of belonging to a large network of people working at peacebuilding.”
“One thing that was obvious was that God's Spirit was able to lead us. We were able to hear each other and express what we were thinking. We became part of each other's lives through this experience. Though we as Christians face much hard work and many challenges in contemporary society, it is clear that there are still many opportunities through the work we do to introduce Christ's values into the world we live in. (...) We as participants from the Balkans enjoyed very much being with participants from the West, but most of all we were able to interact among ourselves. We invested in one another while spending time together within the setting and environment you provided for us. This is where we need help from Christians from western countries: in providing ways, knowledge and the possibility to interact. We were also blessed by your humble and honest spirit as well as your longing for the spiritual renewal of your churches. I believe that after this conference we will have a more clear idea of the direction of work in the future and of the Church’s involvement in peace and reconciliation in the Balkans. The seed was planted in our hearts.”
The seminar organizers and some of the western participants have a slightly different perspective on the meeting. Some participants deplored the fact that the question of the NATO campaign in 1999 was not discussed in depth, though it was mentioned several times. “We western Europeans could have brought the topic into the discussion. Some of the Serbian participants stated that they did not want to talk about it. But the NATO campaign is mentioned repeatedly in all of the news reports that I receive from Serbia. I feel we missed an opportunity. We can only speak about reconciliation if the conflict has been named and recognized.”
One could also bemoan the fact that the theological challenges which the Balkan conflict poses for us were not explored in depth. Here, as well, much work remains to be done.
Finally, the seminar ended without a true feeling of closure or the group having a sense of having come full circle, and this was frustrating for some of the participants...
However, on the whole, there is a sense of profound gratitude. We are joyful and grateful that it was possible to bring together persons from all of the regions affected by the conflict of the past ten years and from all of the Christian denominations - even though only one Orthodox and one Kosovar Albanian participant were able to attend.
We also feel joy at having been able to witness the difficult but fruitful dialogue process that took place among the guests from the Balkans. And we can hope for the continuation of this process, a process which already brought concrete results at the meeting in Elspeet: for example, contacts between the Baptist representatives of the humanitarian aid organization Bread of Life (Belgrade) and the Orthodox priest present should result in concrete humanitarian assistance projects, and Bread of Life also offered its logistical experience to the Macedonian participants.
Finally, there was joy in hearing during the seminar and conference the quiet voice of Bukurije, an Albanian pastor in Kosovo/a. In 1999 she felt that God wanted her to stay in her region and intercede through prayer at a time when everyone else was fleeing the area. Of small and seemingly frail physical stature, she arrived weary and exhausted in Elspeet. Speaking English with great difficulty, she had to struggle to understand the presentations and discussion. Yet she participated fully in the meeting and spoke words of reconciliation - both publicly and privately - at crucial moments: after hearing the Orthodox participant speak of the suffering of his people, she told of her own people’s suffering but affirmed in the same breath that God helps her to forgive. At the Quaker meeting during the international conference she whispered to the person sitting next to her that she wanted to ask the Serbian participants for forgiveness for the suffering her people had inflicted upon them. During Communion at the closing worship service where she sat among numerous Serbian participants, a German participant asked her “how do you feel in this company?”. She responded, “The Body of Christ isn’t divided”.
If this sentiment is shared by the other seminar participants, we can consider the meeting a success...
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke
Translation from the French: Terri Miller
Lord our God, oh Merciful One, you desired the diversity of peoples and cultures. In the name of faith and truth we have endorsed intolerance and violence over the centuries by imposing our ways of believing and express-ing faith on others. We call upon your forgiveness for all the wounds we inflicted during the Crusades, wars of religion, colonization... We have offended the dignity of individuals, entire races and peoples by scorning their culture and their religious traditions and allowing and partici-pating in the enslavement of people of color and thus breaking the greatest commandment of all to love one another.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
For peace in the world and unity among Christians, that the Church may become a place of communion, let us pray to the Lord.
One View of Yugoslav Confrontations
I live in the Balkans of my own free will. Even though I was born here I could have used my German name to leave at any time, including in my youth (1955) when I received a passport while others could not, with the West offering asylum for the asking.
When I married later, my wife who was half German also received her passport and was offered a job in Austria. We could have lived with relatives in Graz or in Styria, watching Yugoslavia from outside the country. For most of the second half of the 20th century we could have known life without Tito, Milosevic and all the known and unknown dictators and their advisors.
What was the reason of our choosing to remain in this country? Certainly not patriotism. Very early I understood that the governments of the Balkans were not proper nor administratively designed to preserve and uphold its citizens. Rather they formed a well-oiled machine for selfish use, creating everyday hardships and bleak prospects for the future of their people.
Economics did not play a strong role either in my decision to remain in Yugoslavia. Born and raised in the town of Nis, I lived a relatively easy life, even finding a job until I finished secondary school. There was an atmosphere of tolerance; no one asked others about their faith or nationality. These things did not appear to handicap one’s educational, professional or social opportunities. One could progress according to one’s abilities and opportunities.
Nor was I held back by my parents or relatives. Work and school kept me occupied and I was independent even while living at home. My parents understood that my thoughts and decisions were made independently from theirs while at the same time trying to get along with them. I’m sure they were not all that comfortable with everything I did but those were the times of Stalinism and “Tito-ism” when other children were acting contrary to their parents’ wishes. My parents were happy that at least I was a dedicated person.
What has held and kept me on the Balkan Peninsula and what are the causes of trouble here?
Causes of conflict in the Balkans
• Absence of the Gospel
The fact that the Balkans are basically without the Gospel is the first and primary reason that I am still here in Yugoslavia. In this region there is only one “official” church, and it sees itself as an instrument for the preservation of the nation: national identity, territorial and ethnic integrity, tradition (history, culture and archaeology) and military strength. Everything that happens within and by this church must submit to these tasks. Not only is there the willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the preservation of the nation, but suffering and dying for the nation is synonymous with suffering for one’s faith.
This represented a challenge for me even before I became a Christian. By my tenth birthday I had come in contact with the New Testament and Psalms. Despite two years of wandering through atheism and agnosticism, God preserved in me a spark of Evangelical light; I sensed a message that the people of the Balkans need the Gospel, and that I could be an instrument in bringing this gospel to them. I became very certain of this after my conversion in 1947.
• Lack of spiritual reform
The second reason I stay stems from the first: there was never any spiritual reform in the Balkans. Even less so can one speak of any kind of reformation. The influence of the Reformation cannot be felt here. Moreover, the churches of the East understand movements like those of Wycliff, Ian Hus, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and others as marks of cor-ruption in Western Christianity. The Eastern Church believes that its spiritual advantage is that nothing within it has changed since the ninth century, with the exception of changes forced by external circumstances.
This kind of reasoning places very specific demands on the Evangelical community. We Evangelicals cannot change legislature. We are few and cannot have much influence on politics or other social trends.
So what, in fact, can we do? We can change people; that is to say, we can bring people to God who changes them. The official church doesn’t concern itself with this. Rather, in this respect it views the greatest accomplishment as someone becoming a monk or a nun. Even then such a man or woman must submit to the interests of the nation and politics, be ready to protect these interests and even to go to war. For this church a changed person is a person who dies as an individual yielding to the organization, having no rights of his or her own regarding decisions, not questioning their appropriateness or even his or her own actions.
We respond to this challenge through the Lord’s church: by evangelization, preaching, teaching and most often, with personal testimony.
• Historical myths
There is a third reason for the troubles in this region and that is the profusion of historical myths. The difference between historical reality and myth is great. In some cases the past is measured by events that never took place. That is not only the case with our medieval history. Even events from 1941 - 1950 are presented to us in fictional form making it difficult to know what actually happened. (The first non-Marxist sociology textbook for the secondary schools of Yugoslavia was published in March 2001.)
This creation of myths in the place of fact puts several challenges before us. We struggle to protect our youth from coming under the influence of mythology and “myth mania”. This is especially important for believers who are studying the social sciences. We are trying to present the need to carefully examine history and the necessity to search for the truth in the social sciences.
To summarize: I have quoted three reasons - the absence of the gospel, a lack of values from the Reformation and historical myth - why I have stayed in the Balkans and for conditions generating our past and present troubles. That is already enough reason to show how traditionally in the Balkans not only history but an entire social conscience exists revealing, more or less, a hidden call to reprisal. That is why revolt and wars start here when they are least expected.
The presence of Islam
In order to understand a situation like this, it is crucial to examine a separate source of new myths as well as hatred: the presence of Islam in the Balkans.
According to Islamic international law, the countries of the world are divided into two categories: dar-ul-islam, (a country where the Muslims hold power, though not necessarily a majority) and dar-ul-harb (a country where Muslims are not in power and therefore where one could expect the use of force in order to establish an Islamic government). Ottoman Turks came to the Balkans on the basis of such principles. Due to the insurrection of local populations and the intervention of Russia and Great Britain, Ottoman Turks had to give up territory all the way to Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire disintegrated after World War I. There has been a non-theocratic republic since 1928, but the pan-Islamic and pan-Turkish positions have not been abandoned. A desire to re-establish authority and dominance (or at least control) is present in the mindset of Balkan Muslims. In the world today, Islam is often known for generating terrorism and revolt. In democratic countries, Muslims use their numbers and the underground to their advantage; in dictatorships they use dissension. Among Muslims any type of nationalism must be subordinate to Islam, while Christian Europe destroys itself by inventing new kinds of nationalism. This is especially true for the Balkan peninsula.
Opinions and actions today stem from historical myth and from history itself. The dominate attitude among both politicians and intellectuals as well as the common people is a Byzantine mentality: no tolerance of opposition, determination by the government of what to think and believe and no acceptance of blame.
Neither the Orthodox Church, Islam nor the Roman Catholic Church tolerates opposition. A similar situation exists within secular politics. Even before 1941 there were no organized associations; political parties have been allowed since 1990 but in reality have only existed in the shadow of the multi-talented Tito. A united democratic opposition has been in power in Yugoslavia now since October 2000, but it is united only in bringing down the old regime (Milosevic & company). All other actions have been either sad or ridiculous, and proposals for serious changes are not always as explicit as other countries expect.
The situation with Montenegro is ironically similar. Separatism has always been present in the Balkans. Byzantium seceded from the great Roman Empire. Small tribal territories of Balkan Slavs seceded from Byzantium. The Greeks have also divided themselves. Albanian tribes detached themselves from Byzantium, and also later from the Serbian kingdom (after its disintegration in 1371). During the XIX and XX centuries the Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians, Greeks, Hungarians, Albanians and the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina were all separated from the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Tito invented the Macedonians, Bosniaks, a separate Kosovo and Vojvodina.
Separatism as a way of thinking has its stronghold in the official church. It is against universality, is bound to the nation and demands separation from other people on the basis of state and ethnic qualification. That is the reason why the Macedonian Church was created in defiance of the Serbian Orthodox Church. And why for the very same reason present day politicians in Montenegro created a Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The leaning toward separatism is so strong that Muslims from Bosnia, Herzegovina and one part of western Serbia would not cooperate with the rest of the Muslims from the world at the Islamic center in Brussels but insisted on their own separate house of prayer.
In the countries of the former Yugoslavia and in Albania, the majority of the population doesn’t believe that authority comes from God; instead, at least subconsciously, they regard their “authorities” in place of God. For everyday life this means that the governing party determines what an individual should believe and think and how he or she should behave and conform.
Perception of the enemy
In the Balkans the governments have their own picture of the world. Regardless of reality or the truth, their own view is forced upon the people through the media and educational system. In their depiction of the world, everything is politicized and divided - others can either be for or against them. That is why they always think an enemy exists: the enemy is anyone who does not think and believe in the same way as they do. All Evangelical Christians in the Balkans region have been persecuted for many years now for these very reasons. The “official” church views them as sects or cults. The “official” theologians, for instance, know who Baptists are (some of their bishops are my colleagues from the theological faculty) but nevertheless consider us sectarians. It is a no win situation: if we do not serve in the military, we are undermining military service, but if we do serve, then we are “infiltrated spies”, an internal threat or “hidden enemies” etc.
People in the Balkans spend much time and energy finding and inventing enemies. I say this not only in reference to history and the myths about which I have spoken. I also mean individuals, institutions and communities. Thus for a time in Serbia, the Academy of Sciences and Arts was an official enemy. For many people, “the enemy” was located on Francuska Street No. 7 (the Serbian Writers Association). In Montenegro many see the Metropolitan Diocese as an enemy, and in Macedonia it is the illegal Albanian University in Tetovo.
It’s no wonder that, especially in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, organizations such as the European Union, International Monetary Fund, UN Security Commission, the Open Society of the SOROS foundation and others including the International Bible Society and our own humanitarian associations, “Bread of Life”, “Tabita”, and “Love Your Neighbor” are counted as enemies.
Looking to the future
First, believe in God’s promises. I will mention one from the Old Testament and one from the New:
• “When you pass through deep waters, I am with you, when through rivers, they will not sweep you away; walk through fire and you will not be scorched, through flames and they will not burn you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
• “And be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20)
Our faith sets us apart from the majority who have forgotten the promises of God. By faith we influence the people around us, liberating ourselves from pessimism, false optimism and reliance on human power or skill. In the same way, by our faith we destroy hostilities and break down myths.
Secondly, we need to help all who work at distributing the Holy Scriptures. It is not necessary to create a new organization or program; it is enough to get involved with existing groups such as The Bible Society, Scripture Union and A Bible for Each Home. Churches and Christian associations here will face opposition from the “official” church, but that does not mean that the average citizen would not be willing to receive a Bible.
Third, we need to direct our prayers:
• toward overcoming conflicts as soon as they emerge and wherever they appear;
• toward fulfillment of the will of God in circumstances of unrest and dispute as well as in everyday life;
• toward specific activities which would include all the Evangelical Christians;
• toward a better and more relevant understanding of the Scriptures, in agreement with the will of God;
• for leaders and important individuals, that they would guide the people honestly, with love and competence;
• and toward breaking down and eliminating prejudices, myths, lies, negative emotions and selfish interests.
Fourth, get rid of moderate, “safe” or indirect preaching. Our voice must be sincere. Truth includes many diverse colors, but it is never gray. Gray is the color of ambiguity, and in vagueness there is neither truth nor lie. Life in the Balkans is full of contradiction. Although the Orthodox Church tends to make it mystical, even mysterious, our life is really just complicated. It may be our duty to simplify it, but we must present it as we received it, in all its different colors. Perhaps this means that it will not always be pleasant when we speak in public, but it will be healing. It must be healthy, otherwise we ought not preach.
Fifth, in all other aspects of life we should seek simplicity. If two theological opinions are equally biblical, we should chose the one which is more straightforward. If two ethical positions have an equal biblical and philosophical basis, we should chose the one that is less complicated. If two political solutions are offered and both have the same ethical value, we should regard as better the less complicated resolution.
It should be noted, though, that our idea of what constitutes simplicity is dependent on personal preference and previous experience. As everything else is subjective we may be deceived in our logic. Therefore we should rely on collective experiences in order to avoid extremes that are offensive and rudimentary.
Sixth, we mustn’t close our eyes to the Muslim world. In the Balkans, the Orthodox and Muslim peoples have suffered the most. There is a terrible silence concerning the suffering of Muslims. Their political actions often put forth the need to set right injustices and to seek revenge. Muslim thinking can deny the basic human right of religious freedom. However Islamic beliefs can have more serious consequences - namely, according to the Saria Law, the penalty for forsaking Islam is death. That means that one should seek to provide every convert from Islam a place of refuge from Islamic governments and power structures.
This poses two tasks for Evangelical Christians:
• to understand and know Islamic peoples and
• to gain favor with Muslims. This is certainly a formidable task. Though there are no “instant” answers, we must strive to find solutions - in the interest of the Gospel.
The Balkan Peninsula is in crisis. There are many causes. The politicians speak loudly, but neither they nor their priests - alas! - understand (or want to understand) that there are spiritual causes to the problems we face. Overlooking spiritual factors is the basis of our troubles, and I have tried to show how unfortunate that is.
What I cannot discuss here are the actual circumstances in the region. This is not possible because everything is changing so quickly and the situation cannot be controlled. We hope for stability, but it will not come about until all sides of the conflict admit that all people and their everyday lives depend on the One whose hand directs all circumstances.
My wish is that just as Evangelical Christians have contributed to the relief of material difficulties, they will contribute as well to the easing of spiritual distress. May the “Bread of Life” be uniformly “bread” and “life”.
Translated from the Serbian by Sladjana Duljic and Strahinja Lukic, with assistance from Holly Carden. TRM
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the terebinths of Mamre. As Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day, he looked up and saw three men standing in front of him. He ran to meet them and bowed low to the ground. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘if I have deserved your favor, do not pass by your servant.’” (from Genesis 18:1-3)
Inspired by this story in Genesis 18, Andrei Rublev painted the icon of the Holy Trinity featured with the devotions in this pamphlet towards the end of the fourteenth century in Russia at the time of the Mongolian invasions. With his own eyes Rublev had seen villages ravaged by war, destroyed houses, churches in ruins, dead, wounded, suffering, terrified men, women and children. He had experienced hunger, epidemics, flight from war and inner conflict.
After experiencing all this suffering, how was he able to paint an icon of such complete harmony? With hands which bless and give and eyes which radiate peace?
The painter had surely dried tears and dressed wounds himself. In these suffering faces he saw the countenance of God the Father and the Son; he encountered the gentle love and tender compassion of God in the children of God with whom he came in contact.
Thus Rublev was able to paint an icon which imparts some of the peace, comfort and healing power of God to those who are able to open themselves to the message of the icon and to pray before it to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The icon invites us to kneel in the empty space before the altar and, in the presence of the sacrificial lamb and within the refuge of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to relive and move beyond our own suffering and that of those who have confided in us. In this way, in joining Jesus’ plea for forgiveness for his persecutors, we ourselves will receive peace and enter into a process of healing and regaining our inner harmony.
The Challenges of Sectarianism and Peacebuilding
I am not an academic, a professor or a reverend. I come in a spirit of learn-ing from you and with you. We used to say in Northern Ireland that if you understand the Irish problem, you don’t know the problem. There is even a book called “A Problem to Every Solution”. There are similarities and differences between the conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Balkans. Northern Ireland is much smaller (1.5 million people) but also has all the dynamics of an ethnic conflict.
In 1894 a woman came to Holywood, near Belfast, seeking work. She married and had 11 children. The couple, my grandparents, raised their 6 girls as Protestants - their father’s confession - and their 5 boys as Catholics - their mother’s confession. I grew up with this diverse family; this was God’s seal and hand on what I do now. I work in political and social mediation. In my work it has helped to be “bigger” than a Protestant and to include the Catholics in my mind and in my heart. I do this work to honor my grandparents who had the courage to marry each other across the divide and for their children and my children. For me this work is a calling and not a job. Perhaps for many this is an essential.
Situation in Northern Ireland
I believe that people change - that’s why we have churches; that’s why we run schools. No conflict is unsolvable. In Northern Ireland there has been 26 years of violence and 6 years now of peace. The peace is still fragile; it could break down at any time. It takes as long to build peace as the conflict has lasted, ie if there has been 30 years of conflict, it will take at least 30 years of peacemaking. Peacebuilders have to have the ability to be knocked down and discouraged but to keep going anyway.
In Northern Ireland the issues of contention are flags, language, territory and culture. Our present government is made up of people who used to be sworn enemies (for example, a former IRA commander is now respon-sible for the department of education). The three-year-old Good Friday agreement does not name winners or losers; there is no acceptance of blame for what happened in years past. Many have paid the price for peace. There are even some who have no grave to visit. 3300 people have been killed in a country of 1 and a half million. This means that everyone knows someone who has been killed or seriously injured. The journey from conflict to harmony will take many years, and the smallness of the country makes it more difficult to overcome (for example, there are former prisoners living in small towns and villages among the relatives and friends of those they were convicted of killing).
Conflict and society
Usually ethnic conflict is expressed in three areas of a society: who controls security and police; who controls education; and who controls culture, i.e. what flags are flown, what music and sports are played.
The idea that politicians and civic leaders make agreement and then tell everyone else how to live just doesn’t work in an ethnic conflict. Local experiences of peace or violence in small locations are much more likely to determine local realities. Peace needs to take place at the bottom, in the middle and at the top of society. And it seems to me that probably most of the people at this seminar are educated, active, and from the middle of the social groups in our society. All of us in the middle have a vital role to play because we have access to the top and to the bottom groups of society in our respective locations.
I would like to make an observation about minorities and majorities in society. As I mentioned previously, in Northern Ireland the religious divide is nearly half and half: 50% Catholic and 50% Protestant. There are many other divided societies in our world, but because the minority is so small, it is not necessary to take any notice of them. For example in Canada the First Nation population is only 2% of the overall population; they’re so small they can just be pushed to the side and they are not a threat. In New Zealand, the Maori people are such a small segment of society - 3% or 4% - that they don’t even need to be taken into consideration. Ethnic people in Australia - the Aboriginal people - can be pushed to the side. Again, they pose no real threat to the stability of society. The catch is that one can push minorities around, but when the minority population gets above about 20% of the overall population, one can’t really push much further. That is why the situation in some Balkan states and in Northern Ireland is so difficult. The other side cannot be overcome without doing too much damage to oneself.
Peacebuilding: an extraordinary - and costly - activity
Peacebuilding in a divided society is an extraordinary activity. We ought not to blame people, whether they be the church or anyone else, who are not involved. One of the amazing things about Northern Ireland during the terrible times at the height of the Troubles was that normality contin-ued. Women took children to school. Men went to work. Hospitals and churches continued to function. Life went on, and there was something very important about that. Thus I am never critical of those who are not involved in peacebuilding, because the average citizen is an average person doing ordinary things. Peacebuilding takes extraordinary effort and perhaps is only for a few.
About 4 or 5 years ago I was involved in mediation in a very public, po-tentially violent and high profile dispute involving several thousand people. We were able to reach agreement between the opposing parties, and violence was avoided. It was at a critical time in the peace process where we could have easily slipped back into the cycle of violence. Mediators normally try to keep out of the headlines, but somehow one of the newspapers covering the dispute found out who was involved in the mediation and printed our names and pictures. I received phone calls of thanks for my small part from all over Ireland, Britain and Europe. There was almost complete silence from my church community. This is because 5 years ago peacebuilding was not seen as important in many churches. I tell this story to illustrate that peacebuilding is costly business for the peacemaker. Peacemakers cannot expect others to clap them on the back and thank them for doing a good job, because the peacemaker may be undermining a position they have held for a very long time.
Peacebuilding is costly work. But the people of God should be prepared to pay the price because our nationality and our flag is not of this world. As children of God we belong to the kingdom of God. We walk at a dif-ferent pace in a different direction and to a different drum as Paul noted in his letter to the church in Ephesis (chapter 2, verse 13): “For he is our peace. In his flesh, Jesus, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, the hostility, between us. He, Jesus, abol-ished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity thus making peace and might recon-cile both groups to God in one body through the cross thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who are far off and peace to those who are near for through him both of us have access in one spirit to the Father.”
Jesus has given to us the task of reconciliation. I want to explore what that means in a church context. What does it mean in a divided society to read the Bible? What does it mean in a divided society to live as a Christian? To respond to these questions, I would like to look at some of the realities of the effects of violence in Northern Ireland.
Realities in Northern Ireland
First, in Northern Ireland religion is a historic theme of the conflict and the churches have been and, in many ways, continue to be part of the problem but also a vital part of the solution.
Secondly, both prior to and during the past thirty years of the Troubles, scores of peace and reconciliation initiatives have sprung up, many of which have been started and sustained by Christians seeking to be faith-ful to the call to be involved in reconciliation central to their understand-ing of the Gospel. However, the tragedy is that, by and large, they have had to go outside their own churches to find or create vehicles for doing the very thing which they believe being faithful to Jesus Christ in this situation requires.
Thirdly, increasingly there are initiatives for reconciliation and peace-building happening in and through the churches. In fact there is now much more going on than ever before and a much more diverse and imaginative range of initiatives than most people realize.
Moving beyond “business as usual”
In Northern Ireland [after a bombing] often the very next day you would see a notice like this “Business as usual”. There may be no glass in the building and no walls or doors, but the stalls would be set out - “business as usual”.
For the Church to be involved in peacebuilding, it is not business as usual. It needs to be more than business as usual. My experience of both Protestant and Catholic churches is that we are very good at business as usual but not very good at doing the extraordinary, courageous and brave thing which is different than business as usual.
Often when a town or village was bombed, the media would come to the town and would ask church leaders why they thought this had happened in their town. They would often respond that they didn’t know why, that they had very good relationships in their town, that people got on very well together. Whenever I heard this, I wanted to shout that the leaders were lying, because I knew and they knew that in that town, people so-cialized separately, people went to schools separately, people went to churches separately, that there were Catholic pubs and Protestant pubs, that there were sports which were Catholic and sports which were Protestant. Getting on very well together was simply getting past one another without obvious offence; people just lived separately.
Church initiatives for peace
The following are some examples of initiatives the churches have undertaken in recent years in order to move from violence to peace.
1. Within a local church/parish
• Within local churches there have been prayers for peace at crucial times, and more often now all churches come together for special times of prayer.
• Sometimes there have been special sermons about peace, about loving your enemies, going the extra mile, forgiveness. It is not often that we hear a sermon about forgiveness, forgiving the other person, turning the other cheek. Even though it’s central to our faith, we don’t often hear about it. Because of this even the fact of a minister or priest preaching on these topics is a step forward.
• ECONI: Evangelical Contribution On Northern Ireland - This group came into being in 1988 to work within the Evangelical community. Its members asked the question, “If Evangelicals are people of the Bible, then what does the Bible say about loving the enemy and going the extra mile?”. This reflection started a whole series of seminars, research and publications, and conferences primarily within the Evangelical commu-nity (11% of the population of Northern Ireland). ECONI has become a very influential and powerful organization and has also drawn criticism from more fundamental groups. I believe, though, that to be true to the Gospel means possibly drawing fire from others, even from your own people where it is most painful.
• Another model for the local church was the twinning of a Catholic church and a Protestant church. This action was not about theology, but rather more of a social reality and an opportunity to get to know people from the other side. There are various examples of this model of twin-ning: visits, occasional worship together, family picnics, social discus-sion. Again, this is an opportunity to get to know each other and to dispel the myths about the other side. Many people might think that in a little country like Northern Ireland everyone already knows one another. The reality is that we don’t know what’s behind the other people; we only know about them and their culture. This model of twinning allows people to get to know one another and functions as a first contact.
• The next phase of a twinning contact would be to have a Catholic church and a Presbyterian church not only meeting and talking socially together but also tackling harder issues together, sitting down and talking about the violence and their misunderstandings of one another, being open and honest with one another, getting young people involved in letter writing to one another.
• A further example of twinning is where one church in a very middle class area gets to know another church in a very difficult and violent area, for example a Protestant middle class church twinning with a Catholic working class church in a difficult area. In this way twinning is not bound by geography. Such instances of twinnning have been very useful in helping diverse people to understand what others are facing in daily life.
• There have been instances of three-way “twinning” as well, for example Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist congregations which plan trips together to look at various scenes of violence. As a group they stand together where perhaps someone was murdered on the street, or where a bomb was exploded and several people killed. Such a trip might take place months after the event. The group stands quietly, prays together and leaves flowers, accepting some measure of re-sponsibility for what has happened.
• Another goal of twinning can be to give young people an opportunity to get to know one another. If young people go to separate schools, play separate sports, socialize separately and listen to separate music, there is a need for them to have access to one another. However, experience has shown that simply working with young people, while good in itself, will not bring peace. Those young people will go back into their homes and communities and all too often hear the old sectarian talk again from parents and friends.
• Recently a Catholic church and two Protestant churches put on an imaginative worship evening in a big public arena at a time of commu-nity tension. The event was planned knowing that the tension was going to happen around a particular celebration for one side. The churches brought along well-known people to support them and this action diver-ted public attention to something much more real and creative. This was the church challenging social society not to be focused on violence but to be focused on Jesus Christ.
3. Models within denominations
• Within the Presbyterian denomination every church congregation (approximately 300) has appointed a peace agent. The agent can be a man or a woman and is usually a lay person, not clergy. It is their responsi-bility to bring peace issues into the life of the church - into the youth activ-ities, into the women’s activities, into the preaching, into the prayer life of the congregation. There is a peace newsletter for the Presbyterian Church which shares ideas from around congregations.
• When the ceasefires were declared in 1994, the Presbyterian Church produced a peace vocation. Every single member got a copy on a little card to go inside his or her Bible. This peace vocation reads in part “We affirm that to be a Christian peacemaker in our situation in Ireland, we must recognize the responsibility given by God to government and to those who serve law and order. We must therefore reject violence, seek ways to advance justice and promote the welfare of the needy. We affirm that to be a Christian peacemaker we must be initiators of programs of action which will contri-bute to peace in our country...” While the Presbyterian Church is not a historic peace church, I believe that most historic peace churches would be happy to own this peace vocation. Such a peace vocation is another step forward.
• Another example of peace work comes from my own mediation organization: every single Pres-byterian, Methodist and Church of Ireland clergy person in training has three days of mediation training as part of their education. In this train-ing we are trying to sow the seeds of peace thinking with new clergy as they are being formed.
In Northern Ireland there is no one model of peace work among the churches that fits everyone. It has to be worked out locally what is best in a given situation.
Lastly, as encouraging as many of these models are, even the very best of them has difficulty getting participation from people. Often in the local congregation only a small core are interested in peace because it’s business as usual - planning, meet-ings, worship -; peace work is extra and sadly there is no time to include peace in packed schedules. But I believe that in a situation of conflict to be a Christian means that this “business as usual” is not enough. If a person lives in a divided society like I do, one has to go out of one’s way to meet the other side; it doesn’t just happen. I think it is accurate to say that no denomination in Northern Ireland has appointed staff to full-time peace and reconciliation work funded by their own resources. Church peace workers I know are paid with money accessed outside the congregation and often outside the denomination.
The challenge of Christian peacemaking
So, although there are stories to rejoice in and models of good practice to share, there are huge challenges facing the church. Moving from peace-making being an optional extra for those who are interested in “that sort of thing” to an understanding that because in Jesus Christ God has shown reconciliation to be his will and his way and that peacebuilding is integral to discipleship for all Christians requires a theology of peace-building. I believe we are only beginning to grasp or teach or live it. I also believe that just as renewal will free us and fit us for doing so, so also will engaging in such a journey contribute to the overall renewal of our churches.
I live in Belfast, not in Brisbane in Australia, not in Barbados; I’m a Christian in Belfast and need to explore what that means for me here and now. It is not a question of what that means for me in some other city. The question I’m faced with is what it means to be Christian in my own setting. How do I read my Bible in that setting? When the Bible says “love your enemies”, that doesn’t mean that I need to love my American enemies; it refers to the enemy just down the road, just across the street. That’s the challenge.
Working the crisis at hand
I believe that for Christian people to work for peace means needing to work at the crisis which is happening but also to have an eye on the long-term work that needs to go on. An example of this would be dealing with the crisis of young people fighting outside of school - a case of a Protestant school and a Catholic school located close together and when the young people are released for the day they fight on the street. It might be possible to get the schools to change their hours so the children finish the school day at different times and don’t meet in the street. But there are other solutions.
If the Christian just focuses on the conflict between the children, will that be a good thing in itself? If the Christian begins to think about what it is that keeps these schools apart - the parents, the governors of the schools want separate schools -, he or she will see that work needs to be done on changing the society in which the schools are situated. If the city wants the schools to be separate and the city government is also divided as well, then there is more work to be done. It is not just the crisis at hand; it’s the more in-depth work that needs to happen. Just to work for a few weeks with the young people is good but it is not enough. There need to be programs developed to help these young people to meet, to get to know one another over a period of years, to begin to share together in youth clubs outside of school; there needs to be work at much longer-term programs. Working on the crisis is one thing but Christian peacebuilders also need to work on the context on the longer term.
In conclusion I would like to mention two further points.
• Trench work
I want to comment on “trench work”. As a colleague of mine describes it, in a conflict the traditional way of working as a Christian mediator is to invite people from opposing sides, from the “trenches”, to meet you in the middle. However, that doesn’t work because the most dangerous place in trench warfare is in the middle. The Christian peacemaker needs to go into the trench. He or she needs to understand the people, needs to build trust with the people, needs to have no ulterior motive other than to really understand and to build relationship. Naturally while he or she is in one trench, the enemy is looking across from the other trench. The enemy knows the mediator has gone there and will probably be thinking you’ve gone to join that side. The mediator needs to come out of the one trench and move across to the other. The mediator needs to have the ability to move across and be trusted. As a mediator you go there not in the first instance to take messages across but to get to know the people there, to understand, to build relationship. People from enemy trenches will be interested in you as a mediator because you will come from the other side with the smell of these people on your clothes. At this stage the contact through you as a mediator is about as close as one side is ever going to get to the other. They want to know what people in the other trench are like: what are they saying about us, what’s their next move?
The Christian peacemaker needs to have the ability to go back and forward, back and forward. In doing so he or she will find people in both those trenches who also want peace. Not everyone, but here and there you will find people. That trenchwork takes a long, long time. I haven’t found any other way of doing it.
• Understanding the needs of the other side
In Northern Ireland in the past churches were very good at articulating the needs of their own side. But the church, above all, must have the ability to articulate not only its own needs but the needs of the other side. Unless Christians can do that, they are not being followers of Jesus Christ.
A few years ago whenever extreme Protestants were burning down Catholic churches and extreme Catholics were burning down Protestant churches, I suggested to some of the church leaders that they make it known in advance that they will pay for the restoration of a church of the other side if a burning occurred. It never went public...but the burning stopped. I think it’s those imaginative, courageous and in some cases outrageous steps that the church has to do to build peace.
Ten Lessons Learned from Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland
1. Conflicts are caused by people and all can be resolved by people.
2. Varying approaches are needed. Peacebuilding is like building a house, lots of different things are happening at the same time. Different people are needed for different tasks.
3. All sectors of society need to be involved: church, business, culture, education.
4. Work when you can. There will be good days and bad days.
5. Be creative. Empower local people to take responsibility. Don’t underestimate the role and contribution of women.
6. It’s a long, long process. Peacebuilders need to find ways to sustain themselves for this long haul.
7. Look outside the region for support and advice. Other conflicts are often more difficult.
8. Take risks for peace.
9. Peacebuilding is messy work with lots of un-certainties and unfinished work.
10. Pray, take time for silence, worship and reflec-tion. You can only do what you can.
“I have a dream that perhaps in 20 years time I’ll have a grandchild who will go along to Parliament and will listen to them speak and debate not about flags and languages and territory but about education and health and the environment.”
“The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts themself will be humbled and anyone who humbles themself will be exalted.” (Math 23:12)
May the God of peace make us perfect in all goodness so that we may do his will; and may he make of us what pleases him through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever and ever.
Lord Jesus Christ, light shining in our darkness, have mercy on our tired and doubting hearts. Renew in us the courage we need to bring to completion the work you began in us.
Building bridges of peace in the countries of the former Yugoslavia
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God!” (Matthew 5:9)
What should Christians do to start dialogue about reconciliation and justice in the countries of the former Yugoslavia? What is the outlook for the future? Can Christians build bridges of peace in those countries? I would like to share some of my thoughts in this regard with you.
All of the three religious communities in Bosnia & Hercegovinia, Croatia, and Serbia have members who committed crimes during and after the war. They see themselves not only as defenders of their country but of their faith as well. But few religious leaders have been willing yet to acknowledge that their own religious community did too little, was too cautious, or may have helped stir nationalist passions that resulted in crimes against their neighbours.
We all know there is no such thing as collective sin; all sins are personal! The war in the former Yugoslavia was much more religious in nature than the religious leaders want to admit. I do believe that unless religious leaders in these countries take a lead in expressing repentance for crimes committed by their own religious communities, the cycle of violence and counter-violence will simply go on !
How can we work for peace and reconciliation?
First we must recognize that true reconciliation cannot be achieved without confronting injustice and oppression! As we all know from personal experience, when deep hurt has occurred in a relationship, reconciliation is costly. When we forgive, we, in a manner of speaking, “bear” the guilt of the forgiven. The cross shows us that reconciliation is also costly for God. This is not because God demands that someone else pay for the hurt that has been done. Instead, it is God who offers reconciliation through Christ and thus pays the price of our refusal. Moreover Christ does not go to the cross as an unwilling victim but, in profound yielding to his Father, offers himself utterly in order to reconcile the world.
At the same time we must be careful to not practice “cheap” reconciliation! There cannot be reconciliation without justice and the naming of ethnic injustice happening today due to nationalistism in Bosnia & Hercegovinia, Croatia, and Serbia! The Kairos theologians were right to criticise cheap reconciliation, for reconciliation cannot be achieved without justice for the oppressed.
Three foundations for peace
• Standing with the oppressed
Probably one of the major problems facing the Church is how to help build a new nation without being party to destructive nationalism or being silent in the face of discrimination, corruption, or tyranny.
All religious leaders and members of the religious communities must side with all who remain oppressed in one form or another (refugees who cannot return to their homes, people who have lost their jobs because of religious discrimination, etc.) and accompany them in their continuing struggle for justice, human dignity, and liberation. The Church needs to be engaged in helping to bring about a new economic order that is able to redress the unjust economic legacy of political leaders in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
• Defending human rights
The second foundation is the defense of the human rights of ALL people, especially minority cultural and religious groups. Even though “radical Christians” will oppose “reactionary Christians” both in the church and society, all people have the right to exist, to form groups and to express their views in democratic society unless their actions are illegal or socially destructive.
• Critiquing one’s own actions
The third foundation of the church's prophetic witness of critical solidarity is critique of its own actions and ideas. The message of the prophets must always be applied first and foremost to one’s own community of faith if it is to have any integrity. Naming wrong-doing must begin with one’s own church!
The need for truth-finding
I feel that we in Bosnia & Hercegovinia, and probably in all the countries of the former Yugoslavia, need to deal with the past and to make reparation for the gross human rights violations which were perpetrated in the name of liberation, nationalism, and religion. It has become increasingly apparent that reconciliation without acknowledgement of the truth of what happened, as well as dealing with the past in a way which heals the nations, will not endure.
For this reason it is my belief that the countries of the former Yugoslavia need a commission similar to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a commission that will address questions of truth, reconciliation, and peace and will deal with the past, the present and the future.
Unless the past is dealt with properly and expeditiously, it could return to haunt the future. For if a culture respecting human rights is to be nurtured and respect for the law established, then the crimes of the past must not be swept under the rug. These crimes must be faced in order to prevent the past from repeating itself, and, most importantly, to help rebuild the lives of victims.
My experience in my work in Bosnia & Hercegovina is that victims generally do not express any desire for vengeance - they want the truth to come out so that they can meaningfully forgive and, where possible, receive recompense. So, although remembering the past may be costly, it is costlier not to remember it in a way that can contribute to healing and genuine reconciliation.
On repentance and forgiveness
The Christian understanding of repentance, forgiveness and reparation is of fundamental importance in helping to shape the national consciousness of what is required to heal the country, to bring about genuine reconciliation and to build a conscinetious and democratic culture. The churches, together with other religious communities, have an indispensable pastoral role, a role which could play an integral part in ensuring that the work of a truth and reconciliation commission achieves its goal of healing the nation. The churches are called to minister to perpetrators of crimes, enabling them to confess their actions and helping them to become morally responsible citizens.
And the churches have a special responsibility to the victims, to help them tell their stories, and in doing so, deal with their deep hurts and anger. The healing of shame and both personal and collective memories, is a difficult task, but it is fundamental to the moral reconstruction of all the countries of the former Yugosslavia, and central to the message of the Gospel.
In the New Testament the two words most frequently used for forgiveness are charidzomai, an act of grace, and aphesis, a liberation or release from obligations or debts. Both words are used to describe the recovery of relationship and the restoring of community that are at the core of forgiveness in the New Testament. Forgiveness is not a private act for the healing or salvation of the forgiver, but rather a transaction whose goal is the regaining of the other (see Matthew 18:15)
This new vision of forgiveness we have been given is neither a vertical nor a horizontal model, but rather a circular process of forgiving and being forgiven. It is circular precisely because it is in the circle around the cross - symbol of a forgiving God, incarnate in human pain and suffering - that we give and receive forgiveness.
Forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, truth: those are words which should be central for the future of the countries of the former Yugoslvia. Christians in those countries must liberate themselves from a racist nationalism and the lies of the past, and work for a just future with help of the Prince of Peace!
I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying ‘Behold the dwelling of God is with humankind! He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away!’ (Rev. 21)
Newer Bible commentaries such as that by Pablo Richard explain that the new Jerusalem descending from heaven is not a far-off event which is to take place after the end of the world as we know it. Rather this vision illustrates that when we are at the end of our resources, God will offer an alternative way: from heaven, i.e. from God, will come a city which is open to all and in which all people can live in peace. Therefore the book of Revelations is a book of resistance and hope for us today.
Where ignorance and apathy have torn apart community life, shed your light, O God of love.
Where injustice and oppression have shattered the courage of peoples, shed your light, O God who liberates.
Where suspicion and hatred, conflict and war have put to question your goodness, shed your light, O God of peace.
Eternal God, open the eyes of the nations and peoples, that they may walk in the light of your love;
set nations and peoples free of ignorance and obstinacy, that they may drink at the springs of your goodness.
May the God of hope fill us with joy and peace in faith, that we may
overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
MARIJANA AJZENKOL is general secretary of the Inter-religious Center in Belgrade. The Center strives to bring leaders of different faith communities together for dialogue and relationship building. She is a member of the Catholic Church.
MIRCO ANDREEV is pastor of the Evangelical (Pentecostal) Church in Skopje. He has worked for the relief organization Agape since 1990, serving needy people in Kosovo and Macedonia.
ANTHEA BETHGE is an advisor to church groups and institutions in the development of initiatives to overcome violence. She is a member of the Rhineland United Church and active in nonviolent conflict education and peacemaking projects in Croatia and Bosnia.
ALEKSANDAR BIRVIS is a Baptist pastor and former lecturer at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Osijek and the Orthodox seminary in Belgrade. He is president of the Baptist Church in Yugoslavia and academic dean of the Theological Faculty in Novi Sad, Serbia. Aleksandar is also a spiritual advisor for the humanitarian organization Bread of Life and founder of the Yugoslav Association for Religious Freedom.
DUSKA BOROVAC-KNABE works as a freelance trainer for nonviolent action. She is involved in seminars primarily for development workers and persons engaged in civilian peace service in the Balkans. She has worked with Deutsches Mennonitisches Friedenskomitee (German Mennonite Peace Committee); Balkan Peace Team; Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Entwicklungshilfe (Association for Development Assistance); Pax Christi - German Section in Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina; and Forum Ziviler Friedensdienst (Forum Civilian Peace Service). Duska is Baptist with ecumenical family background, belief and practice.
JOE CAMPBELL works for The Mediation Network for Northern Ireland. Based in Belfast, Mediation Network is involved in a wide range of mediation efforts in support of peace in Northern Ireland including work with politicians, community organisations, public organisations, policing and also churches. Those at Mediation Network believe that mediation should be expressed in three main ways in N. Ireland: as a method of conflict intervention, as a tool for positive social change and as a way of life for every citizen. Joe is a member of the Presbyterian Church.
HANS JAKOB GALLE has been active in peace work since the First European Peace Church Assembly organized by Church and Peace in 1986. Following the assembly he became involved in the Weierhof Mennonite Church’s peace group and is a member of the Deutsches Mennonitisches Friedenskomitee’s (DMFK-German Mennonite Peace Committee) planning committee. Hans Jakob has visited the Balkan region several times since 1993 as a result of DMFK’s efforts to support persons suffering because of the war in Croatia and Bosnia.
SYLVIE GUDIN POUPAERT has worked as Church and Peace Francophone regional coordinator since 1996. She is also currently employed as a translator and journalist by the Mennonite World Conference. Through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), she gained experience in Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) work in the United States and later served as an administrative assistant at the MCC Peace and Inter-church Relations Department in Strasbourg, France. Sylvie is a member of the Mennonite Church.
JANKO JEKIC is co-founder of the Christian humanitarian association Bread of Life and currently serves on its board of directors. Since its foundation in 1992, Bread of Life has been involved in providing assistance to refugees from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo/a. Currently Janko resides in Germany and is active in organizing relief work for persons returning to Croatia. Through this work he hopes to contribute to the building of relationships between Serbs and Croats in this area of Croatia. Janko is from Belgrade and comes from a Baptist background.
SISTER IRMTRAUD (KAMPFFMEYER) is Lutheran and a member of the Communauté de Grandchamp, an ecumenical community with members from the different churches of the Reformation and various countries and cultures. The community lives a life of contemplation, inspired by monas-tic tradition, where hospitality, being present in the world and working for justice, peace and the integrity of creation are central. Through prayer and hospitality, the community supports several persons who have committed their lives to working for peace. The members of Grandchamp believe that the work of reconciliation in each of them and between them has an effect that reaches beyond the community.
HARKY KLINEFELTER is a nonviolence trainer and has led seminars in various locations including Bosnia, Croatia and the Netherlands. He worked closely together with Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference before coming to the Netherlands in 1972. Harky pastored the Zeist Mennonite Church for 5 years and was a consultant to the Balkan Peace Team up until it disbanded in early 2001.
WOLFGANG KRAUSS is a member of the intentional community Hausgemeinschaft Bammental and works for the Deutsches Mennonitisches Friedenskomitee (DMFK-German Mennonite Peace Committee). From 1992-1999 DMFK administered peacebuilding and reconstruction projects in Bosnia-Hercegovina and worked with refugees and displaced persons in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia. Today DMFK maintains contacts with churches and peace projects in the Balkans region.
MERITA KULI is a liaison officer with Catholic Relief Services/Caritas in Skopje. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official overseas relief and development agency of the Catholic community in the United States and is dedicated to assisting all people in need regardless of ethnic or religious background. CRS’ mission is to promote dialogue between members of different religions and ethnic groups through programs furthering civic education, fostering economic development and providing support for local NGOs. During the year 2000, CRS began development of a new program entitled “Justice and Peace” with the aim of fostering inter-religious initiatives and inter-ethic cooperation and exploring possibilities for nonviolent conflict resolution training.
VESNA LIERMANN works for the Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights in Osijek. The Center has developed a project entitled “Inter-religious Cooperation in Peacebuilding” which involves churches and Christians in peace work. Project activities include nonviolent conflict transformation training, workshops for women on Christian nonviolence, peace prayers, meetings on topics related to peace elements and practices in different church traditions, and sacred music concerts during the tradi-tional “culture of peace festival” in Croatia.
GORDON MATTHEWS is an active member of the German Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and its Peace Committee; the Laurentiuskonvent; Oekumenischer Dienst im Konzili-aren Prozess (Ecumenical Service); and the German branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. He belongs to the Laufdorf group of the Laurentiuskonvent. He recently spent just over a week visiting groups and projects in Bosnia, Yugoslavia and Croatia on behalf of Quäker-Hilfe, the peace and service agency of German and Austrian Quakers.
ROEL MEIHUIZEN is a Mennonite and chairman of the Dutch Mennonite Working Group for the Former Yougoslavia. The Working Group, formed by the Dutch Mennonite peace, relief and mission committees, has been active in humanitarian assistance work in the Balkans for nearly a decade. The group has worked together with Mi Za Mir, an association of Yougoslavs in exile; Mennonitisches Hilfswerk Deutschland (German Mennonite relief association); and more recently, Bread of Life, particular-ly in Prijedor, Bosnia.
BUKURIJE NIKQI is pastor of an Evangelical church in Peja, Kosova, called Fellowship of Jesus (Bashkesia E Jezusit; non-denominational). The church was established seven years ago and its ministry activities include church planting in another city, a free medical clinic, an orphanage and English courses. The congregation is in the initial stages of opening a Christian radio station. Fellowship of Jesus’ peace work has its foundation in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
FATHER STOJADIN PAVLOVIC is a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church and a member of the board of directors of the Inter-religious Center in Belgrade.
STOJAN PETROVSKI is pastor of the Evangelical church in Kumanovo and general secretary of the Evangelical Pentecostal Church in Macedonia. He is active in humanitarian assistance for people of different ethnic backgrounds.
MANDA PRISING has led the organization “Ravangrad” in Sombor since 1996. She works with children, youth and adults at rebuilding civil society and reestablishing peace through workshops, social and humanitarian projects and activities, and meetings on ethnic relations, liberalization and dealing questions of guilt and responsibility concerning the past. In 1992, together with her family and several friends, Manda founded Somborska mirovna grupa (Peace Group Sombor), focusing initially on facilitating communication between those separated by the war and organizing non-violent conflict resolution seminars for local, regional and national groups.
MARIE-NOËLLE VON DER RECKE is general secretary of Church and Peace and served previously as the association’s chairperson for 6 years. She taught Bible and ethics for 8 years at the former European Mennonite Bible School. Marie-Noëlle is a Mennonite theologian and a member of the Laurentiuskonvent.
OLAF RUHL is an ordained pastor in the mainline Protestant church in Germany. He is currently active in leading worship services and doing translation and accompaniment work at international church conferences. Olaf is an associate member of the Iona Community.
BRANKA SRNEC, together with other Baptists, founded the association TABITA in 1992. The organization provides spiritual, psychological and material assistance to refugees. In addition to humanitarian aid, workers at TABITA strive to help individuals and families develop the will to survive, integrate, deal with the past and look to the future.
GUDRUN TAPPE-FREITAG is a member of the Baptist peace group Initiative Schalom. Her first visit to the Balkans region was at the peace center in Osijek in 1992 in connection with Oekumenischer Dienst (Ecumenical Service). Since then she has developed contacts in different areas in the region. In 1997 Gudrun spent a year in Novi Sad working in cooperation with TABITA.
JASMINA TOSIC is co-director of Bread of Life in Belgrade and a member of the Baptist Church. Currently Bread of Life is faced with the challenge of making a transition from emergency relief and basic survival programs to programs promoting development and offering people the possibility to rehabilitate and renew their lives and find a way for their future.
TOM VINCENT is a program manager with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Macedonia. CRS in Macedonia is responding to the current crisis with humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons and explor-ing possibilities for community development projects. Tom is originally from the United States and spent time doing development work in India before coming to the Balkans region.
ZVONIMIR VOJTULEK is a Methodist pastor doing peacebuilding, recon-ciliation, humanitarian and church planting work in Bosnia-Hercegovina for the United Methodist Church. Though he was living in Norway and studying theology at the time, Zvonimir organized and personally delivered thirty-four aid shipments to Mostar during the war.
Church and Peace would like to thank all individual donors and the corporate sponsors of this seminar for their support:
Aktionsgemeinschaft Dienst für den Frieden, Deutsches Mennonitisches Friedenskomitee, Dutch Mennonite Working Group for the Former Yugoslavia, Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland, Historic Peace Churches/Fellowship of Reconciliation Consultative Committee, Initiative Schalom, Mennonite Central Committee Europe, Stichting Stuw-Kracht-10, The Threshold Foundation.