I have now been home for a week and have been trying to get back into a routine. At times this is hard because of how impactful meeting the survivors throughout Bosnia was to me. When friends and family members ask how my trip was I respond with, “Amazing and sad at the same time.” Bosnia is such a beautiful country yet it has such a dark past that is still very recent compared to how long Bosnia has been mentioned in historical texts. When discussing the genocide with friends and family I emphasize to make sure that they realize that it was the Orthodox Christians and at times Catholics who were waging war and death on Muslims. I feel like this is important especially in current times with the Islamophobia that is occurring in the United States at present time. This was further emphasized by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding the administration’s travel ban 3.0. Many of my friends and family have little to no contact with Muslims on a daily basis so all they know is what Fox News, CNN, or other media platforms tell them about the religion. Each person who hosted or spoke to us in Bosnia was a follower of the Islamic faith and their hospitality and generosity was like nothing that I have experienced in my three plus decades of life in the U.S. It is my hope that people in the U.S. would take time to get to know someone who is not like them and maybe we can move forward from where we are now.
As the division continues in the U.S., it becomes more and more parallel to how it was in Bosnia in the early 1990s. The “othering” of a different population than your own is exactly what happened in post-Tito Yugoslavia with the breakup of the different countries based primarily along ethnic lines. In the U.S. members of the left are telling their followers to protest individuals just because they work for the administration and we have members of the right supporting a policy that separates children from their parents at the southern border. Similar to present day Bosnia, the political ideologies need to understand as people we aren’t that much different than the next person. We may have different thoughts about what right looks like and we can still be civil. Bosnia has not been able to make effective strides forward in reconciliation due to the fact that the perpetrators of the atrocities refuse to acknowledge that they happened. It is going to take some strong leadership on all sides to do what needs to be done to take positive steps forward and be civil with each other. Unfortunately, in both countries, there is little encouraging politicians to act in a manner that would advance their country towards compromise and effective governance. Until this status quo changes there will be little confidence in either country’s elected representatives.
I will forever remember the beauty and tragedy that is Bosnia. There is still hope that reconciliation can occur. My biggest takeaway is the amount of resilience that the human spirit can show is amazing. It further reinforces to me that we can be bothered by the little inconveniences of life because there are others that wish that that was the worst thing that they would be dealing with at the time. My experiences have caused me to be introspective to realize what is important in life. Listening to the mothers who lost their sons and husbands I realize that my time with my family is what is most important and the little things like projects, papers, and other school/work related tasks are secondary.