“The Balkans are a source of inspiration for interreligious dialogue”

“The Balkans are a source of inspiration for interreligious dialogue”

You both participate in the Mediterranean Meetings in Marseille. For what?

Stephan Kukric : Even though it has very little access to the sea, my country, Bosnia and Herzogovina, is an integral part of the Mediterranean countries. We are located on the Balkan route, through which many migrants try to reach the European Union. In Sarajevo, I work for a Catholic association which works to welcome migrants and interreligious dialogue. I am at the Mediterranean Meetings above all to discuss these challenges that we have in common around the Mediterranean.

Mgr Theodore Kontidis : And precisely, if I am here, it is good to exchange and listen to people who have religions, traditions, realities different from mine and my country. The Mediterranean is a common place which carries a sometimes conflicting history, made up of rivalries but also, and fortunately, of collaboration and mutual aid. To understand the issues more generally, you must first listen to others. This geographical space can be a place of progress; It’s up to us to define how.

You also carry the voice of your countries. What roles do they have in this dialogue?

Stephan Kukric : We are not in a political approach. But one thing is certain: we carry our history and, with it, a piece of that of our country. Since December 2022, Bosnia and Herzegovina is officially a candidate for the European Union. The cultures there are diverse. A majority of the population is Muslim, there is also a significant share of Orthodox and, finally, around 15% Catholic. Sarajevo, our capital, is called the European Jerusalem: what pride for our young country which, until recently, suffered so much from the war (the civil war lasted from 1992 to 1995, opposing Muslims, Croats and Serbs, following the proclamation of the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the breakup of Yugoslavia, Editor’s note)!

Mgr Theodore Kontidis : Eastern European countries have collaborated with the Orthodox for years. This agreement with Catholics can serve as a pastoral example to other countries. In Greece too, the Orthodox community is very present: its roots in religious tradition are very strong. A secularization movement is underway. The interreligious exchanges sparked can inspire our neighbors.

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