Love and dialogue can go a long way, regional agency leaders say.
Published on: 01-09-2024
For the past 15 years, Božidar Mihajlović, executive director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been involved in various peacebuilding projects across that Eastern Europe nation. In a country deeply scarred by war and still grappling with the aftermath, these initiatives have aimed to bridge divides and foster understanding among its diverse population, regional agency leaders said.
Engaged in Peacebuilding
Here are some of ADRA’s activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and their impact on building lasting peace.
“The first project that I was a part of was called, ‘Lets Do It — Clean Up the Country in One Day,’ and ‘Lets Do it — Plant a Million Trees in One Day,’” Mihajlović shared. “While these endeavors were primarily ecological in nature, they played a significant role in peacebuilding.”
Mihajlović explained that through the formation of a network comprising 120 local leaders and teams, individuals from three different nationalities and religions were brought together to work toward a common goal — the betterment of their shared environment. This project stood as a stark contrast in a country where media outlets often perpetuate divisive narratives, instead showcasing unity and collaboration for the greater good.
The second project, “Invasion of Love,” has been ongoing for the past decade, Mihajlović shared. “Our team travels to a city marked by divisions and nationalities each year. Through a series of activities, we aim to spread love and inspire others to do the same,” he said. “Some of our activities have a clear peacebuilding focus. One notable instance occurred in Mostar, a city divided into an eastern part populated by Muslims and a western part inhabited by Catholics.”
Mihajlović shared how on the final day of Invasion of Love, ADRA organizers pulled three ropes from the mosque, Orthodox, and Catholic churches. “These ropes symbolized the connections between different faiths and cultures,” he said. “Messages of peace from both the Bible and the Koran were attached to the ropes, which were then tied into a knot on the Old Bridge. This powerful gesture, captured by numerous media outlets, received widespread approval and appreciation from the people.”
Another remarkable project took place in the town of Jajce, where children from different nationalities were forcibly segregated in separate schools. In response, ADRA officers created a large mural under the bridge bearing the inscription, “Love unites,” Mihajlović reported. “This mural served as a visual reminder of the power of love in overcoming divisions and fostering unity among the youth,” he said.
Mihajlović also shared that for two years, he had the privilege of leading a center for interreligious dialogue in Sarajevo. According to him, that center provided a platform for different religious groups to share their beliefs, practices, and customs. “We aimed to foster understanding and respect among diverse faith communities,” Mihajlović said. “Additionally, once a month, we came together as a collective to engage in community-based activities to promote peace and harmony.”
The most recent project ADRA officers have been involved in is the launch of an internet radio station called, “Reconciliation,” Mihajlović reported. “Through this platform, we strive to spread the good news of forgiveness, love, and goodwill among Muslims, Catholics, and Orthodox people in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said. “By actively building bridges and fostering dialogue, we hope to contribute to developing lasting peace in our country.”
An Ongoing Process
Peacebuilding in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an ongoing process that requires the collective effort of individuals, communities, and organizations, Mihajlović said. “These projects, rooted in love, dialogue, and reconciliation, have undoubtedly made an impact on bridging divides, overcoming differences, and bringing people together,” Mihajlović said. “As we continue to build a better future for our society, it is crucial that we amplify such initiatives and work towards a society where peace, understanding, and respect prevail.”