Tuesday started with an awesome interactive session on religion and ecology presented by Peacemaker Jose “Chencho” Alas. Chencho’s extensive experience in Central America, combined with short presentations from three Bosnian environmentalists – Alen Lebirica, Rijad Tikvesa and Tim Clancy – served as dynamic (and organic, hehe) food for thought, exploring an often overlooked connection between the earth and religious leaders.
This third day of the Retreat showcases one of my favorite aspects of the Peacemakers network – its diversity. While this group is certainly concerned with the use and misuse of religious texts, with culture’s impact on conflict resolution techniques, and with many other priorities of religious actors working for peace, many in the group are also passionate about work that is, at first glance, somewhat “outside the box.” Chencho’s innovative work is one illustration of this; Friar Ivo’s interreligious choir is another.
This evening was a fusion of the annual Reconciliation and Peace meeting of the Interreligious Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina and a performance of the Pontanima Choir, whose members and repertoire represent all of the religious communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Friar Ivo lead the meeting by calling onto the stage the Jewish (and then, in turn, the Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant) members of the Bosnian Council along with the Peacemakers and Tanenbaum staff who shared that same faith. In a land – within a world – where marks of religious identity can be the cause of death, we waited for our names to be called, then we stood at the front with Friar Ivo.
And then the internationally renowned Pontanima choir sang for us, for each group of us, in turn – in celebration of our religious identities, in songs of our traditions. Pontanima’s name was formed by combining the Latin words for bridge (pons) and soul (anima). These words certainly described the effect the music had on me. I couldn’t understand the Hebrew, the Old Church Slavic or the Arabic, but the lyrics’ translations, soon blurry in my event program, were not needed to communicate the visceral harmony that caused my tears of joy and hope.
From the event program, written by Friar Ivo: “…today we live under the imperative of the moment to cooperate to perform our sublime mission to the world…”