Day 1: It was incredible to be in a room with people from all over the world. Moreover, to be with people from ‘remote’ parts of the world. And then when you consider who these people are, when you think about the work that they do and the risks that they take…well, incredible is an appropriate word.
The opening session of the Retreat was a round of introductions – old friends sharing the past 18 months, others meeting for the first time. If it wasn’t so poignant, it would have been humorous – trying to fit so many (17) dramatic life and work stories in the space of two hours. We were comforted in knowing it was only the beginning.
Father Alex Reid tells me the only thing we’ve failed at – in our organization – is not controlling the weather. Many appeared prepared for fall, but Sarajevo decided to rush it’s winter in order to bless us with the year’s first snow today! Ah, it is a beautiful city, and when covered in thick whiteness, it is tremendous. It reminds one of why this historical crossroads was also, once, the Olympic City. I bought new waterproof shoes and a round of umbrellas. We are all enjoying our warm, Bosnian coffee very much.
I can’t talk about this second day without mentioning the workshops – with their presentation on Conflict Resolution from an Interreligious Perspective, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James, from Nigeria, stole the show, rocked the house, wooed the crowd. I think all of the Peacemakers were pleased to be so impressed and informed by two of “their own.” It was a nice introduction – or for some, a reminder – of why it’s such a privilege and indeed almost a practical necessity to be part of such a network.
Then we heard from Father Reid, who I’ve already mentioned. As he says, he has before spoken an hour and a half without stopping in response to one question. It was appropriate that Father Reid provided a lunchtime session, as his storytelling (about the Irish and Basque Peace Processes) is legendary far and wide.
Oh, I must get back to the group, but first let me tell you about the awards ceremony and meeting with the Bosnian Presidency. Set in an old Turkish bathhouse, come renovated modern institute, the evening was filled with the power but also the charm and concern of diplomats, press and community members. Can I please emphasize that the Peacemakers and Tanenbaum were hosted not only by the wonderful people of Bosnia – and especially Friar Ivo and Oci u Oci – but also by the Bosnian Presidency! It was a great honor to meet the presidents of this fine country, men who know first-hand the tragedy of war and the importance of peacemaking. It was clear, as an observer, which I was, that the respect in the room was mutual.
–Heather DuBois, Tanenbaum Religion and Conflict Resolution Program Associate