Bosnia-Herzegovina: "Suffering unites people"
"It was impressive to see the extent to which people, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim, were united by suffering." This was the comment of a local Catholic leader in the aftermath of the recent flooding in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Father Simo Marsic, youth pastoral care worker in the Archdiocese of Sarajevo and rector of the St. John Paul II youth pastoral center in Sarajevo made his comments in an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Like the rest of society, local faith communities are dealing with an "inconceivable amount of devastation,” he said. But the mid-May flooding in Bosnia-Herzegovina also sparked a great and genuine solidarity among the population, he continued.
No distinction was being drawn between the adherents of the various ethnic groups and religious communities, even though there are still many tensions 21 years after the end of the war.
In the face of the flood, these tensions had been "forgotten." It had been "by the grace of God that in this difficult situation people were overcoming walls which exist between the ethnic groups and religions."
All the employees at the youth pastoral center had supported Caritas in distributing aid since the beginning of the floods. Many people had not been able to imagine the extent of the disaster and had refused to leave their homes.
For many who had already lost all their possessions in the war it had been particularly difficult to leave their houses, Father Marsic explained.
"The memories of the war have been reawakened in people' minds during this time," according to Marsic.
He went on to say that overall one-third of the country was under water and half the population had been affected by the floods.
A special hazard now was the risk of landslides. "In some places as many as 200 houses are threatened by mudslides.”
“Many houses have already been destroyed," he reported.
On top of this there was the danger of land mines which had been flushed out, and these are unpredictable. There was also a high risk of epidemics from decaying animal cadavers.
The last flood disaster of this kind to hit Bosnia had happened about 120 years ago.
"It's not yet possible to foresee how great the destruction is which has hit churches and church buildings," Marsic explained.
All 40 Catholic parishes with about 60,000 adherents in the Archdiocese of Sarajevo were affected, he continued.
At the same time there had been touching moments. For instance, a saint's statue had been washed out of a church. A Muslim had found it in the street and brought it back because he knew it came from a Catholic church.
"Adversity brings people closer together," the priest stressed.
With picture of Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo in Bosnia, visiting flood victims (© KTA Agentur/Bosnia-Herzegovina)