A generation after war, youth build peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Over the past two years, we have worked with an amazing team of organizations through our Societal Transformation and Reconciliation (STaR) project in Bosnia and Herzegovina—Center for Peacebuilding (CIM), PRONI Center for Youth Development, Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), and Mali Koraci – Small Steps.  Now, our formal project is drawing to a close—but the team’s work will live on!

It has been inspirational to see diverse Bosnian youth and young adults take on the task of healing their society’s deep divides, with such energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and joy—and to experience the support of so many different people who survived the 1990s war. 

For us at Karuna Center, the STaR project has also been an opportunity to return and build on post-war dialogue trainings we facilitated in Bosnia and Herzegovina a generation ago. In fact, one of the organizations in the STaR team was co-founded by a graduate of Karuna Center’s earlier programs. We can only imagine the impact that today’s program graduates will have on the next generation, with support from our partners in the full team!

Here are a few project highlights:

✨ Our newly published STaR peacebuilding manual—including dialogue and training tools from the whole team—is now freely available as a resource for other peacebuilders:

✨ STaR established new brick-and-mortar Youth Clubs in four major cities throughout the nation, that will carry on as part of PRONI. The STaR Youth Clubs have already engaged more than 1,200 young people in a range of activities that build connections across ethnic divides.

✨ A total of 159 youth/young adult peacebuilders have graduated from in-depth peace camps and leadership academies led by CIM and PRONI, respectively. They have collaborated to lead nearly 100 peacebuilding activities so far, engaging thousands more community members!
✨ As one example of our community outreach, Mali Koraci held 29 screenings of the documentary film Maglaj: Rat i MIr—which tells the story of three military commanders who fought each other during the Bosnian War and now work together for peace.

The three former commanders (pictured above) joined us for audience discussions after each screening. The outreach initiative was highlighted in a Reuters article about their story.

✨ YiHR engaged dozens of young people in activities surrounding the Sarajevo Film and MESS theatre festivals, focused on peace activism through the arts. Youth working groups created online content—including a video about staying true to our common humanity during the stress of the pandemic.

We are very proud to support the next generation of peacebuilders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it has been a privilege to work with everyone in the STaR team. We are especially grateful to Karuna Center’s Bosnia Country Director, Amra Pandžo, and Financial Manager, Adela Softic. The whole project was supported by USAID people-to-people peacebuilding funding.

We hope to continue all of these collaborations through new initiatives in the future. In the meantime, we are sure that the youth clubs, networks, initiatives, and personal transformation that began during this project will persist and grow!

Youth from different religious and ethnic backgrounds participate in a rare opportunity to visit each other’s houses of worship through STaR. Photo credit: CIM.

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