Letter - April 2000
1998, I stood on the spot where the First World War began.
It was a pretty boulevard full of the animated chatter of roadside cafés
and spring birdsong.
The city was Sarajevo.
four years earlier, a young Serbian student by the name of Gavrilo Princip, had
spent a morning in one of the cafés and fuelled his nationalism with plum
the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire drove by, he pulled out a pistol and
shot him dead. The
spark from Princip's gun lit a flame in the tinderbox of Europe.
And the conflagration that followed consumed a generation of Europe's
finest young men - most of whom had probably never even heard of Serbia.
used to have a plaque set into the pavement marking the spot.
But of course Gavrilo Princip was a Serbian hero, and these days Sarajevo
belongs to Bosnian Muslims.
The city has been "cleansed" of its Serbs.
A new section of tarmac has left the site strangely and anonymously
is less easily obliterated.
moved out of a chill Balkan wind and found the shelter of a scarred wall
pock-marked by snipers' bullets.
A few yards away the pavement had been shattered by a mortar round.
Signs of a more recent conflict.
Scar upon scar.
A complex layer of wounds like Balkan history itself.
I wasn't to know it, but within months the chill wind of conflict would
break upon the Balkans again, and by Easter 1999 the hillsides of Kosovo to the
south would echo to the sound of gunfire and bombing.
can these nations find their peace and their healing?
By now everyone's a victim, every family bereaved.
know only one antidote to the malignancy of revenge, one healing for the scars
of history: As Jesus was nailed to the cross he prayed "Father forgive
bless you this Easter.
May his peace reign in your hearts.
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