Sunday, 21 September 2008

Death And All Of His Friends

"No, I don't want to battle from beginning to end, I don't want a cycle of recycled revenge, I don't want to follow death and all of his friends." I blogged about these Coldplay lyrics before but I mention them again because since our move here we have not been far from death. There are several reasons for that. First was the tragic death of a 30 year-old man from the church we are attending in a car accident, just two days after we arrived. Although we hadn't met him he was a good friend to many of the people we are working with.

Second is the custom here of posting notices announcing deaths on walls and lampposts, A4-sized obituaries carrying a photo of the deceased, clearly showing their religious background. In Mostar they usually either have a green border, for Muslims, or black border, for Catholics. Yesterday as we saw a family sticking another announcement to the wall Rowan observed it makes you realise how many people die all the time.

Lastly, there is the city itself. Still bearing the scars of wars - although encouragingly showing the signs of renewed renovation works - it is hard to look far without imagining the human cost to a legacy of walls pock-marked by bullet holes. Last night we watched Truth in Translation, a piece of musical theatre about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, under the Stari Most. Against this backdrop, its story of torture, abuse and killing was particularly poignant. I was stuck when a key character asked: how can brutal things happen in beautiful places?

Last night Mostar was beautiful and I for one would rather shrink from tales of brutality. Yet up on the Stari Most is a stone that bears the message ‘Don't Forget’. I hope that's don't forget in the 'never again' sense, and not 'don't forgive'. That's for each to decide for themselves but the message of last night's performance was, to rework Coldplay, recycled revenge will only leave us with death and all of his friends. And they have a history of making brutal, bloody messes of beautiful places.

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