April 18, 2007
Bosnia: Bridges of Friendship
Jane Wiebe is a remarkable woman who recounted her yearly mission of delivering bushels of goods and incredible amounts of help to the people of war torn Bosnia. For the past ten years her message remains the same in that, “we can live together as Christians and Muslims in peace IF we choose to respect each other not in word but in action. In accepting each person for the mere reason that they exist and are a member of the human race…peace arrives and friendships are built.” Her intentions were simple: to speak for those who can not speak and to stand for those who can not stand. The result of an unforgettable genocide resulting in 200,000 deaths would set her determination to take action. The invasion of Bosnia commenced in 1991 and continued until 1996. It began in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the conflict between three main ethnic groups: the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. The genocide was committed by the Serbs against the Muslims. Bosnia is one of several small countries that emerged from the break up of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was compiled of ethnic and religious groups that had always been historical rivals including the Serbs (Orthodox Christian), the Croats (Catholic), and ethnic Albanians (Muslim).
In the 1980’s a Serbian named Slobodan Milosevic, a former communist who turned to nationalism and religious hatred to gain power, became the new leader. The tensions began as Orthodox Christian Serbs, the minority, claimed to be mistreated by the Albanian Muslim majority. In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia both declared there independence from Yugoslavia. Milosevic quickly lost interest in Slovenia, a country with almost no Serbs, and instead focused on Croatia, a Catholic country where Orthodox Christians made up about twelve percent of the population. Within the next month, Milosevic’s forces invaded to ‘protect’ the Serbian minority. Here began the first mass executions of conflict, killing many Croat men and burying them in mass graves.
The following year in April, Bosnia claimed there independence in which Milosevic responded to by attacking Sarajevo, its capital city. Sarajevo soon became known as the city where Serbs continually shot down helpless civilians in the streets, including over 3,500 children. Bosnian Muslims were hopelessly outgunned. Serbs began to steadily roundup local Muslims in scenes eerily similar to those that occurred under the Nazis during World War II, including mass shootings, forced repopulation of towns, and confinement in concentration camps. These actions taken by the Serbs quickly became