The Venice Academy of Human Rights is an international and interdisciplinary programme of excellence for human rights education, research and debate. It provides an enriching forum for emerging ideas, practices...
Religious objects restoration is not something uncommon, taking into account the local people’s affection of the spiritual world and their commitment to faith. However, when the temple belonging to one religion restoration is by largest part supported by a member of a different faith, then it is something worth of special respect.
The setting of this story is Tešanj,a city in northern part of central Bosnia, which with its surroundings, does not have more than 50.000 inhabitants, out of which 41.000 have declared themselves as Bosniaks on the last census.
St. Peter and Paul catholic church, located at Tešanj’s old town gates, was thorougly rebuilt between 1998 and 2002, but the final works, which would complete this religious object, have never been concluded. This was the reason why a local businessman from Tešanj, Hasan Ahmetlić, has decided to help catholic community in Tešanj, so that this Home of God as he calls it, gets a better look:
I got the idea while walking by the church every single day, witnessing how no one is able to help the renovation. The funding provided by the church members was not enough to cover the costs and as I had the means, I decided to donate the money, because at last this was someone’s Home of God. All houses around the church are nice and everything is well decorated, so why wouldn’t it be the same with the catholic church” says Ahmetlić.
In the words of Ilija Marinović, the vicar of roman catholic parish office St. John the Baptist, the idea to complete the renovation in this manner was accepted wholeheartedly in Jelah parish. His opinion is shared by the parish coordinator for catholic activities in Tešanj Angela Rajkovača,who lives in the church complex:
“There are not so many catholics in Tešanj and the church is the place of our gathering every Sunday. We have all welcomed this gesture as very positive, just like Mr. Hasan, who has made an effort to have the first object seen as you enter the city, looking really magnificent.I need to say that we have applied at the local municipality to be included in renovation projects, but we never got the funding. They have helped us in many different ways, like other businessman and we are very grateful for that”.
Tešanj’s Mayor Suad Huskić, says that he is very proud to lead a municipality which is singled out amongst others by cases like this one and that the feeling of tolerance and fellowship is present among its citizens.
“Renovation of catholic church is one of the projects in Tešanj carried out with participation of citizens, business entities and public sector of Tešanj municipality. This object, together with the ortodox church, was rebuilt with private donations of citizens, as well as with the local government funding. These objects represent a part of identity of our municipality and of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole. It is very significant for us to have an active dialogue and mutual respect and support. We are very proud that, during the war, the objects were preserved, except for damages from bombing outside of Tešanj” Huskić adds further.
The ordinary people of Tešanj consider this act of mutual help and support the real image of this city:
” I have been living in Tešanj for years now and I have a lot of catholic friends. They are not all religious, but I am glad to see that those who practice the faith have better conditions for it. As far as I am concerned, I would enable everyone to have their place of worship and spiritual upgrade” says Dina Kapetanović- Čolić.
St. Peter and Paul church was built in 1898. It is listed in the national monument registry from the territory of Tešanj municipality in the Burreau for protection of cultural, historical and natural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With this last donation, the outer facade, the paintwork of inner carpentry, replacement of windows and arrangement of church entrance were finally completed.
However, this is not a single case.
The very well- functioning coexistence in this part of country can also be shown through cooperation of Bosniaks and Croats in the Blaževce settlement, where a local community center was rebuilt exactly a year ago. The center serves as gathering place for the youth, as well as for the older, who are protecting the tradition and culture of their people and of this area.
Author: Aleksandra Tolj, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This text was written as a part of Divided Past – Joint Future project and it does not represent nor reflects attitudes and viewpoints of the European Union, its institutions and bodies. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the text lies entirely with the author.