Imam Sabahudin Ceman recounted his experiences in a concentration camp during the Balkan War before a hushed audience in Riggs Library Monday afternoon.
“In 1992, I was taken from my home,” he said. “I was tortured, as were many others, but by the will of God, I survived. … It would be easy if this were only my experience, but there are so many people who share what I do.”
Ceman spoke on a panel organized by the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at the event “Legacies of War and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Living Together in the Future.” It featured four panelists with a range of experiences in the Balkan region and was moderated by Berkeley Center Director Thomas Banchoff.
The event coincided with the International Prayer for Peace in Sarajevo, the largest annual prayer gathering in the world, which runs from Sept. 9 through 11, 2012.
The panelists discussed specific actions to be taken as well as broader ideas about reconciliation in the region.
“There is a hunger to learn more about peace; there is a hunger to dream about peace for this country and beyond,” said panelist Andrea Bartoli, dean of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.
Panelist Nida Gelazis, senior associate for European studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center, explained more practical ways that Bosnia and Herzegovina can continue to rebuild.
“It’s the integration of the west Balkans into NATO that’s really important,” she said. “It’s the process of [working with your former enemies] and becoming a member of NATO in itself that is transformative.”
Ceman described his wish for reconciliation and forgiveness among the Balkan people.
“I do not hold any hatred or wish for retribution in my heart. This is not a way to live,” he said.
Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of politics at the Catholic University of America, shared her expertise about the violence women face during war. She noted that rape is often used as a tool of war and also described the work of women’s faith-based non-profit organizations.
“There was an attitude of ‘boys will be boys’ [and] women are the spoils of war. This has been going on for all of humanity. Sisters in the religious communities did not take that lightly,” she said.
Students were affected by the panelists’ calls for peace.
“I thought it was interesting that the main theme of the speakers’ presentations was moving forward instead of seeking retribution for the past,” Dana Sievers (SFS ’14) said.
Ceman echoed this sentiment in his presentation.
“There’s a basic right of peace and justice for all. Justice and peace are two wings of one bird. We cannot fly with one wing only. There is no peace without justice. There is no justice without peace,” he said. “I do not know how long it could take, but this is what my hopes are, so future generations don’t have to experience what I did.”