Bosnian Religious Leaders Ask G-8 for Aid

To Reconstruct Churches as a Sign of Hope

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ROME, JUNE 11, 2001 ( The four leaders of religious communities of Bosnia-Herzegovina have asked the G-8 industrialized nations for financial aid to reconstruct sacred places.

A message to the countries was signed Friday in Rome at the headquarters of the Sant´Egidio Community.

«We want to reconstruct our places of prayer, because only in this way will we be able to take another step in the path toward peaceful coexistence,» the four religious leaders said.

The four are Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo; Mustafa Ceric, ulema of Bosnia; Jacob Finci, president of the Jewish community of the Bosnian capital; and Father Jovan Georgievski, representing the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate.

Together with them, Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant´Egidio Community, emphasized that Bosnia «represents a challenge for Europe, in favor of coexistence and European responsibility, as well as for interreligious dialogue in an atmosphere of cooperation and coexistence.»

In their common declaration, the four religious leaders stated that «religions are not an instrument of war but of peace,» and «can contribute to transform man from within, through formation in a culture of peace.»

The religious leaders appealed to the G-8 to implement «a plan of reconstruction and restructuring of religious buildings, such as churches, mosques and synagogues, and also monasteries, oratories, cemeteries, seminaries and education centers depending on religious structures,» in order to enable religious communities to «fulfill their role of education for peace and faith.»

Cardinal Puljic emphasized that, following the Dayton agreements, further steps must be taken in the path to peace.

«Refugees have still not returned to their homes,» he said. «Until this happens, there can be no talk of a stable peace. To begin the reconstruction of Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish places of worship would be an important sign of return to normality.»

Responding to reporters´ questions, on the discovery a few days earlier of common graves in Belgrade, with the bodies of hundreds of murdered Kosovars, Cardinal Puljic said: «These discoveries prove that we were not crying out in vain when we appealed for Europe´s and the world´s intervention so that such extremes would not be reached.»

«Now, however,» he added, «it is necessary that new hatred does not arise from the findings. The culprits must certainly be found and punished, but it is more important to build peace in hearts, thus preventing the possibility of new tragedies.»

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