«The War Has Brought People to the Understanding that we Must Have Better Relations», — the conclusions of the peacebuilding webinar

2021-12-17 13:30

The project organizers – the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the UCU in partnership with the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung in Ukraine.

“The war in the Balkans – is the war that was proceeded the religious borders. That was also the story about refugees, displaced people, which is relevant to Ukraine, the story about exchanging territories, about different ferocities that people can do. This is the story of a lack of activity from the side of the international community, — Dr. Pavlo Smytsnyuk, the director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies UCU, the webinar moderator noted. — There are lots of parallels with the Ukrainian experience, and it would be very interesting to analyze this. The Balkans also means the historical memory. We can see how the conflicts that existed during the Second World War, were not sought out and they continued to live and then they arose again in the 90-s. This is also the story about hope. Any war comes to an end, there are no internal wars, peace comes back sooner or later. And then people need to learn how to live together even when they have opposite views or they have different interpretations of the same pieces of history.”

The speaker at the webinar “Ecumenism and Peacebuilding: the Experience of the Balkans for Ukraine” was Dr. Thomas Bremer, the professor of Ecumenical Theology, Eastern Church Studies and Peace Studies at Muenster University, - was announced by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies.

“I would not say that the wars in the Balkans are already finished. No fighting going on anymore, no troops and no soldiers, but the situation is not resolved at all, - he remarked. - Even not all the member-states of the European Union recognized Kosovo as a state, so it is now unclear, whether it belongs to Serbia, whether it is an independent state. The situation in the political sense is not resolved at all.”

Religion was not the reason for the war, but there were political and economical dimensions. When you had the war of Serbs against Croats, then you had the war of the Orthodox against the Catholics. Two large Christian Churches – the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church – belonged to one country, basically using the same language. Both these Churches were in large groups, they were not minorities. Theoretically it would be an ideal area for an ecumenical dialogue. But there was no ecumenical experience at all. There could be good ecumenical relations on the local level.

The war in Croatia started in 1991. Already in the first moments of the war, the Patriarch and the Cardinal met twice and said appeal for peace and that should not be a war and should not have it. These appeals did not have any effect to stop the development of the war.

The relations between the Churches and religious communities became better during the war and after it. It is absurd. The war has brought people to the understanding that we must have better relations”.

According to his point of view, such efforts were seen during the war in the Balkans:

  • the point of a common vision of history;
  • mutual visits and exchanges;
  • concentration on mutual problems;
  • the representatives mutually shared spiritual experience. The people had to revise their vision of other Churches.

Thus, what can we learn from the Yugoslav experience:

  1. everything depends very much on personalities,on how people are open to each other;
  2. it is more important to build up trust and confidence in each other before the conflict breaks out;
  3. people have to understand that they will have to live together also after the war, and they must be prepared for this. Of course, they are concentrated on the war, but it would be very helpful to try to think what will be after the war?

The respondent at the webinar was Fedir Raychynets, Head of the Theology Department at the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary. «In Bosnia and Herzegovina the situation was complicated? Because there was a third party – the Bosnian muslims. I think to state that there were no ecumenical efforts would be too categorical. There was rather poor ecumenical experience. The personalities, strong personalities would matter. There were also very strong personalities on the nationalistic version of religion. Those, who contributed to the ecumenism? They were the personalities with the peculiar worldview, or a peculiar relations to their religion.

The conflict in Bosnia was nor resolved, it was stopped. I am afraid even to think that this conflict may explode once again,” - Fedir Raychynets stated.

Video of the event.