Bosnia-Herzegovina Still Feeling the Wounds of War

Cardinal of Sarajevo Describes Country 10 Years after Independence

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina, APRIL 12, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- On the 10th anniversary of war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina´s independence, Cardinal Vinko Puljic appealed to the Catholic faithful to be bridges of reconciliation between Eastern and Western Europe.

“That war should never have happened,” the metropolitan archbishop of Sarajevo said of the brutal conflict. “Certainly, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not want it.”

Q: Yet the hostilities started and lasted three and a half years. How could something like this happen?

Cardinal Puljic: The war was planned in Belgrade, amid the indifference and silence of the greatest powers that at the time did not want Yugoslavia dismembered. It was the premise for a tragedy of incalculable dimensions. The price of the war was incalculable, in terms of human lives and material damages.

Q: Are you referring to the destruction of which one still sees vestiges, both in the cities as well as the countryside?

Cardinal Puljic: Yes. How many splendors of this land, real jewels and treasures of our culture, were destroyed by violence? How many important structures of the economy have been deprived to us because of the war? I cannot keep silent in face of the churches, and in general the buildings dedicated to worship, which are people can no longer count on.

Q: Six years after the Dayton agreements, what is the obstacle that impedes the country´s reconstruction?

Cardinal Puljic: There will only be real reconstruction when the wounds of hatred are healed, and concord and tolerance are fully restored. But we are experiencing how difficult it is.

Q: In this context, how can the Catholic community intervene positively?

Cardinal Puljic: Our community works tirelessly for parity of rights for each man and each woman, for all peoples of this land. It works for the return of all the exiled. The Church works by educating in tolerance.

Our multi-ethnic schools, open to all, are an example of this commitment. The preferential option is for dialogue, according to the Holy Father´s wishes. By contributing to reinvigorate European culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we want to be a bridge for the dialogue between East and West.

Q: Outstanding among the many problems awaiting a solution, is that of refugees. When will they be able to return?

Cardinal Puljic: This is a real emergency. There are still hundreds of thousands of evacuees who are far from their own homes. The latter often no longer exist and must be reconstructed. Many churches await restoration, given the damages inflicted.

Another very serious problem is the lack of work. So we see migratory phenomena that only impoverish the country, as it is the young who leave. Only the elderly stay.

Where will we find the physical strength and spiritual, moral and intellectual energies to renew our land? Lastly, I would like to mention the topic of political stability without which real economic development is not possible.

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