Wednesday, 21 October 2009

One, not just in theory

It is a sad fact that when people talk about ethnic tolerance in reference to Mostar or Sarajevo these days they are most often using the past tense. To say both cities are devoid of tolerant people would be to make a gross generalisation. I’ve meet plenty in both who can see past someone’s name or background. However most things I’ve read give the impression these cities are not what they once were.

I spent the weekend in Tuzla, in north-east Bosnia. It is a place I’ve heard tolerance talked of in the present tense. As such it shouldn’t have surprised find myself there hearing someone quoting these words: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” They went on to add that in Christ there is neither Bosniak or Serb or Croat or Roma. In other words, someone like Christ would not create divisions along ethnic lines. These are fine words in theory but they were not talking theory. They were talking to people drawn from the four ethnic groups they name-checked, people who have found forgiveness and reconciliation through Christ, people serious about living this oneness, or unity, that the Bible speaks of.

Such moments are as encouraging as they are surprising. Bad news makes the news far more often than good news does; people getting along just fine doesn’t make for gripping headlines. But the good news is that there are people who have put the past behind them and are getting along just fine. They are hope for the future in the face of those who seem set on conflict.

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