Annedore Wilmes works as a research consultant on the Religion and the Prospects of a Truth and Reconciliation Process in Bosnia-Herzegovina project, which is under the umbrella of CTPI’s Religion and Ethics in the Making of War and Peace project (Relwar). Following her article on the arrest of Ratko Mladić in June, Public Faith asked her a few questions about her broader work in Sarajevo. In the interview, which can be accessed in full on our digital documents page, Wilmes gives an overview of Relwar’s work in Bosnia, discusses the current state of grassroots peacebuilding efforts there, and gives insight into continuing religious tensions and the difficulty faced by women and other vulnerable groups. Here are a few highlights:
On the Religion and the Prospects of a Truth and Reconciliation Process in Bosnia-Herzegovina project:
The project examines the impact of religion and the role of religious actors and communities, first, in the process of shaping and communicating accounts of what happened during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) in the 1990s, and second, in efforts to promote societal transformation and reconciliation in BiH. A primary focus is on differences of opinion over whether or not a local version of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission could play a useful role in bringing about transformation and reconciliation. The project engages some who believe religious stakeholders might play a role in a TRC, and with those who believe they should not.
On the vitality of grassroots peacebuilding:
I have met many dedicated religious and non-religious peace practitioners working successfully ‘on the ground’ and facilitating actual change and transformation of individuals, groups and communities. There are people creating spaces outside the three (seemingly) homogeneous major public spheres and there are people bridging divides and clearly challenging the homogeneity of their respective ethnic and religious group in constructive ways, promoting resilience in the face of reoccurring political crisis. The results of this work are likely to appear threatening to those leaders on higher levels of state and religious hierarchies, who are anxious to not lose power, which means they will give only limited support, if at all.
On efforts to overcome religious conflict:
A couple of days ago I interviewed a Muslim from the city of Bugojno in the central part of BiH. He was reporting on projects he is engaged in which bring people, especially young Muslims, Serbian-Orthodox and Catholics together to get to know each other on a personal level and learn about each other’s religion and faith. At one point they were taking a trip to memorials, including the memorial of the genocide of Srebrenica—together. This is pioneering work. For some of the teenagers it was the first time that they actually met someone from the respective other religious community. Having said that, many people in BiH have always embraced views and traditions other than their own, including religious views.
On women peacebuilders:
The ways women (and men) have responded to the violence, to the losses and threats they were facing, are manifold and this has influenced the ways the war has impacted their lives. Many stories of survivors include accounts of how women creatively and successfully shaped areas in their family and community lives which were just not part of their field of action in the patriarchic society they have been living in before their families were torn apart and husbands, brothers, uncles and fathers went to fight or were captured or killed.
Please read the full interview transcript and share your thoughts in the comments.
Image Credit: Sanski Most by Annedore Wilmes.