Tuesday, 15 October 2013

They've done it



If you watch the video you'll see a guy lighting a flare in celebration moments after Bosnia and Herzegovina qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. For him it was a surreal evening. I don't want to speak for anyone else, but I know how he felt because he told me. I also remember him once telling me: you don't understand, England always qualify for tournaments. English fans will know that qualification, when it happens, doesn't often come without some drama. But the point stands, England expect to qualify, and more often than not they do.

Tonight is truly historic for Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have never qualified for a major tournament as an independent nation...until now. They made the playoffs for the last Euros and World Cup, losing to France and Portugal. We heard people try to offset the double disappointment with conspiracy theories as to why they came so close but remained so far. This time those are just not necessary. There will be in Brazil. Legitimately. I imagine it must be particularly sweet to see the French and Portuguese again facing playoffs.

And so congratulations to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Let's just hope they don't drawn England in the group stages!


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Still got it




On Friday night we took a group of young people to Zagreb to see Martin Smith and Matt Redman in concert. We first saw Martin Smith when we were teenagers too. His songs, and the music of Delirious, have been a big influence. Sometimes it's easy to forget how big but there's nothing like the live experience to jog the memory; no escape from the weird and wonderful joy of revisiting the familiar in another time and another place. Context may change but truth doesn't for those who want to be History Makers. The focus my be different but the passion still comes from a heart that burns with that Obsession. Taking It Wherever It Goes was what they used to say. Back then we didn't expect it to bring us to this point, but here we are...happy we still have the energy and desire to out dance the teenagers on God's Great Dance Floor!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Disunited democracy

Yesterday we arrived back in Bosnia and Herzegovina after three weeks in England. Most of the people we met during this trip have never seen this country. If they have heard of it their only frame of reference is usually news reports from the early nineties. We tried hard to give them a fair picture of how things are now. This included enthusing about the hospitable people and the beautiful countryside, as well as talking about the segregation ingrained in society and the state of political stalemate that saps all sense of hope from most normal people we meet. Sadly these last two points can be linked to the international intervention the ended the armed conflict. This intervention did stop the killing, of which there had been a lot, but progress towards a fully functioning democracy has not been so quick. At least that's what I used to think.

It was the Belgium elections in 2010 that first got me questioning. It went without government for 541 days while political parties failed to form a coalition, comfortably breaking the world government formation record of 249 days set by Iraq, also in 2010. Iraq I can understand but this was Belgium; bland old Belgium, home of Tintin and the EU Parliament. Now the self-proclaimed last-superpower-standing has hung the 'back in 5 minutes' sign in its government shop window. Politicians ostensibly elected to serve the interests of their constituents are putting on a fine display of looking after their own. I wonder if they have any concept of just how ridiculous that looks from where I'm sitting.

Some would say this country is patronised by the West: the promise of EU membership is hung out like a carrot for good behaviour; US politicians lecture on the need for the different sides to work constructively for the future. Jesus once quoted the proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself’ and people here could be forgiven for thinking the same. Those who would police the world would do well to be in a healthy place before preaching a miracle cure...although the disunited democracy the United States of America is currently displaying is certainly easier to achieve. There's hope for Bosnia and Herzegovina yet.