On invitation by the Community Sant’Egidio from Rome, the Mayor of Sarajevo Ivo Komšić participated in the three-day International meeting for peace in the Italian city Assisi. This traditional meeting gathered hundreds of religious leadres of all religions and dignitaries from the fields of culture and politics, who discussed the most urgent issues related to peace, trust, coexistance and dialogue in Europe and the world. The prayer of peace dedicated to Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first prayer to be held at the conference, which ended tonight with the meeting of Mayor Komšić and other participants with Pope Francis, and joint prayer on the occasion of the historic October Days of Prayer which were convened for the first time by holy John Paul II in 1986.
Mayor Komšić addressed today the participants of the International peace meeting on the topic “Future of Europe – possibility for integration and dialogue”.
Komšić began his address, which was met with great interest and had a significant impact among those present at the Conference, by saying that “today it is a widely accepted thesis in social sciences that society is a communication community. Such a community is based on a higher form of action in which social reality, but also social actors are constructed. This means that the identities of social actors and societies are constructed only through interaction, through the other. More than just linguistic understanding is necessary for this interaction. If you enter the social communication with presumed identities, i.e. fixed and closed cultural and religious values communication is at best difficult, and often impossible.
Komšić added that: “the global society or the global societies are in the stage of searching for a model of social communication and cohabitation. The problem lies in the fact that these societies have constructed their identities through culture and religion, and therefore the process of cohabitation with others appears only as a process of assimilation. Solution of this difficulty is usually found in a compromise that is plausible only if we leave essentialist standpoints. However, leaving this point of view means the loss of identity. To overcome this problem, the first step is coming to know and understand other cultures and religions, and recognize their distinctions, rather than avoiding, ignoring or suppressing”.
According to Komšić, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very good example of this: “A unique social form of communication and values arising out of it had the crucial influence in forming of the symbolic and cultural-religious goods and values there. We can claim that Bosnian society has been moulded through a kind of original social interaction. That implies that this society has represented one of the original types of communicative community. Cultural identities in BiH, as a base for ethnical -national identities, have been formed in models of communicative action, i.e. through understanding and acknowledgement. Communicative action or the process of intersubjectivity is actually based on understanding (which implies common language) and on the fulfilled demands for validity, presuming mutual recognition of social actors and their mutual acknowledgement. Communication action i.e. social process was taking place through the structures of language and mutual recognition. Identities of social actors have been validated and maintained in this kind of communication.
The Mayor assessed that “for Bosnian society this means that it had been formed in an original interethnic communication, with a special identity form. The uniqueness lies in the fact that the identity of each ethnic community formed in the medium of the common language that has allowed understanding, and in the medium of the common milleu (topos) which has enabled recognition, i.e. coexistence. Each ethnic group had their identity composed of the other ethnic community. Simply put, the people of BiH have not lived next to each other in mechanical relations, but together, with each other. The other was part of their identity, the other for whom it is known that he is different and distinct. But it is precisely this otherness and difference that has enabled them to affirm and preserve their own identity – the cultivation of identity included preserving the identity of the other. That was not the case of any other ethnic group in Europe. European societies were founded on one ethnic community and the others have been accepted only by the mechanical bonds of interest. This is the reason why these relationships were never solid, nor vital and their history is largely the history of the mutual struggles for prestige and power , where the worst means have been used – such as persecutions and genocide.
Identity which has been created through self-understanding and recognition of the other, had unfortunately, lost its foundation in the past war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Diverse ethnic-religious communities that have built their identities on differences they were aware of, now define it by the list of attributes that belong to them as singularities. Self-understanding is transformed into knowledge that can be broken down into a finite number of propositions. These identities have become abstract self-relations of cognizing subjects without acknowledgment of the other. The recognition is lacking on all sides, communities still understand each other, but do not satisfy demands to one another” stressed Komšić.
“Moreover, the war and the new rhetoric that has lost its communication structure ruined the foundation of the cultural-national identity of all communities, that is, a common living environment. Apparently, architects of war knew that topos was giving the most significant attribute to living together in diversity, so they made every attempt to rip communities out of their environments. In doing so, they used the most brutal means – persecutions, burning and destruction of property, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. By destroying common living environment, the identity of all communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and their collectiveness was equally destroyed (communities that have been living in new environments in exile are still searching for their identity)” said Komšić.
He emphasized that “Unfortunately, this situation continues to this day and has become a social fact. At the heart of Europe, a special and unique living world with a particular form of identity was lost, for which Europe itself was responsible to some extent and which it is now seeking to find”.
Mayor Komšić ended his address by saying:”Through the liberalization of space, transnational identities arising from such scenarios are attempting to imitate topos of the world of living that existed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in its original form. This space, artificially constructed is nothing more, but an attempt to compress the environment in order to achieve mobile and profitable relations and partnerships. This is not the Bosnian topos as the environment in which diverse communities maintain their differences by living. Within this artificially produced transnational identity there are insurmountable boundaries in language, culture, religion and tradition that still remain. These boundaries, although attenuated by new types of European democracy, or the tourist agencies’ strategies, often come up to the surface taking the form of assaults, small riots or open crimes against members of other ethnic and religious groups. In Bosnia and Herzegovina Europe has lost itself”.