Students of a primary school in the southern city of Mostar have on Wednesday read out parts of the Quran and the Bible together in a local Orthodox church as part of an effort to learn about each other’s religions.
Mostar is one of Bosnia’s ‘divided communities’, with most of the Muslim Bosniaks living in one part of the city, and most of the Catholic Croats on the other side, while some Christian Orthodox Serbs live all over the city.
The wider Mostar area is known for having a ‘two schools under one roof’ system in place, where students of different ethnic groups are kept separate and are taught according to differing curriculums.
The students told N1 that the experience, which was organised by their teachers, was unforgettable for them.
“I feel very good here, I have never been in a church before, I have been in a mosque,” said Edis Maksumic, one of the students. “I only heard about the Orthodox religion during my Islamic religion classes, but now I know a lot more and I am very happy that we are all together here.”
“I am very pleased that we got this chance to see what a church looks like from the inside,” said Amani Dagger, another student.
A week before their visit to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the students visited the Cose Jahja Hodza Mosque. Most of the students attending Orthodox religion classes had never entered a mosque before.
“It was nice in the mosque, as I expected, it was peaceful and I learned a lot that day,” student Irina Kandic said, adding that she thinks such visits should be organised at least once a year “so that we learn about other religions, get to know each other better, and respect other people.”
Religious and national identity should not be a reason for divisions among people, the students said.
“We support every initiative that goes toward our youth living in an atmosphere where they will meet other people, love people who are of different religions and who have different cultures, that is very important,” the main Effendi of the Mostar Islamic Community, Dino Maksumic, said.
“They hang out despite everything, regardless if they are of Orthodox, Islamic or Catholic faith,” said Orthodox religion professor Njegos Veljancic, adding, “I have not noticed any problems among them in any of the schools that I work in.”
“Our task is to work on this and enable them to keep meeting like this in the future,” he said.
The visits are essential for reconciliation and coexistence in Bosnia and have the goal of bringing Mostar’s youth together, said the school principal.
“We are trying to have normal cooperation in our school, for this to be something we tell our children since we are already raising and educating them,” principle Seada Kustric said, adding that “we need to make this togetherness one of the highly important strategic goals of upbringing.”