Bosnia: Young visitors break the isolation

In August some forty young Italian volunteers spent two weeks at Banja Luka, the main city in the Serbian part of Bosnia. The Catholic Bishop of Banja Luka invited the Italian Jesuits to organise summer camps with the hope of drawing his people out of their fear and isolation, and of creating links with Catholics elsewhere. Project Hope work camp was organised by the Missionary Students? League (LMS), an Ignatian spirituality movement that educates young people about development and raises missionary awareness. Since 1992 more than a thousand young people from various countries have taught catechism and language courses, built public works, organised activities for young as well as handicapped people, and shared ordinary daily local life. In Bosnia the war ended with the 1995 Dayton Agreement, but the country remains divided in two ethnically-distinct parts, the Serbian Republic (with a majority of Serbs and Orthodox) and the Croatian-Muslim Federation (in turn divided between Croatian Catholics and Bosnian Muslims). The economic situation is precarious, foreign investment insufficient and agriculture hamstrung by thousands of land-mines. Many places of worship have been destroyed in order to intimidate the non-Orthodox into leaving their land. The presence of the International Stabilisation Force (SFOR) has protected the minorities so far, but young people want to leave, and the work of reconciliation seems very difficult and long-term indeed. See www.gesuiti.it [HL10806]