On Friday, June 15, the Mali Koraci team had the privilege of introducing 29 American students on a study abroad program to Sarajevo, its history, and its religious diversity. The study abroad program is hosted by our friends Petra and James Taylor at the European Center for the Study of War and Peace (ECSWP). The students came from Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, and after spending their first day with us, they will spend another month in Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina for their studies.
As an introduction, Amra Pandžo shared her experience of the siege of Sarajevo, as well as her transformation after the war when she began to engage in peace work. Then the students went on a short visit to three of Sarajevo’s traditional holy sites, including the Emperor’s mosque, the Church of St. Anthony, and the Old Orthodox Church, which the students visited the following day.
Most of the students entered a mosque for the first time when they visited the Emperor’s Mosque. It was also their first experience learning about how Muslims pray. Some of the students observed the prayers, while others participated in the prayers together with the Muslims in attendance.
In the Church of St. Anthony, Fra Marinko Pejić shared about the Sarajevan tradition, in which people from every religion would pray at the Old Orthodox Church, the Church of St. Anthony, and the Tomb of the Seven Brothers, giving the same amount of money as a voluntary contribution at each holy site, in the hopes of having their prayers answered. He went on to describe how each house of prayer is open to people of every faith, when they need a quiet place to come and pray. He concluded that we all worship the one God, even though we understand God and worship him differently.
Sarajevo’s interfaith experience is fascinating for many visitors, because the history of mutual respect, collaboration, and love between people of different religious communities is unique and offers a hopeful perspective about how people are interconnected, regardless of their religion or nationality.