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Catholic News Service: Bosnian War Victims Find Solace in CRS Peacebuilding Project

July 18, 2013 by

Zoran Radovi, a Bosnian Serb who received assistance to return home after the violence of war in the mid-1990s, smiles as he holds fruit at his family’s food shop. They started the business with assistance from CRS, which also helped other Bosnia war victims. Photo by Sam Tarling for CRS

Zoran Radovi, a Bosnian Serb who received assistance to return home after the violence of war in the mid-1990s, smiles as he holds fruit at his family’s food shop. They started the business with assistance from CRS. Photo by Sam Tarling for CRS

A Catholic Relief Services program in Bosnia helps war victims overcome the trauma they experienced years ago. From Catholic News Service:

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNS) — In July 1995, the Bosnian city of Zepa fell to invading Serbian troops and Amir Omerspahic, then 21, fled along with the city’s other Muslim men. They hid in forests and fields by day and ran under cover of darkness at night until their pursuers ultimately captured them, five days later.

“They singled out one man and accused him of being an officer. They shot him on the spot and threw him over the mountain. They beat my head severely and took us to camps,” Omerspahic recalled in an interview with the Catholic News Service, 18 years later.

“We’d heard that at Srebrenica they had already killed so many (Muslims), so we were panicked. They threatened to put wires through our heads and kill us (and) they forced us to make the sign of the cross before letting (us) go to the bathroom,” he said.

Omerspahic said he and about 800 Muslims were kept for six months in two separate camps made up of small wooden huts “with 30 people per room (and) concrete floors.” Their captors, he said, routinely “put our hands behind our heads and beat us (and) called us ‘Turks.’”

The article goes on to describe how a program by Catholic Relief Services helped Omerspahic and others deal with the trauma.

Under the CRS project, “Choosing Peace Together,” former war prisoners like Omerspahic are provided spaces where they can meet to share their different pasts. For those among them interested in addressing a wider audience, the project schedules public meetings with mostly young audiences who have little first-hand knowledge of their country’s violent past or who even reject outright that their particular communities share any blame for the ethnic conflict that killed an estimated 97,000 people and displaced almost 2 million others.

Read the full article on Catholic News Service.

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