Bosnia day sheds light on dark time in history

On Oct. 17, the College hosted “Bosnia: Reflections on Religion, Nation and State.” This three-part event, organized by Cynthia Paces, associate professor of history, covered the events that took place in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The day kicked off at 10 a.m. with a screening of the 2003 film “Picture Me an Enemy,” a documentary based around two women, Natasa Borcanin and Tahija Vikalo, refugees from the Yugoslav Wars. The film depicted images of bodies draped over guardrails and mass gravesites.

Co-filmmaker Nathalie Applewhite said, “(We) set out to put a human face on a conflict.”

The day also included a panel discussion moderated by Paces. Three of the four panel members were current students from the College: Alida Liberman, senior English and philosophy major, Laura Janssen, sophomore history/secondary education major, and Alyssa Phillips, senior history/secondary education major. The other member was Jason Reed, director of Bosnia Friendship Camps. Bosnia Friendship Camps organize volunteer programs at Bosnian schools. At these camps, Liberman, Janssen, Phillips and Reed helped teach social skills such as teamwork and tolerance.

“The culture over there and the people are the most loving people you’ll ever meet,” Janssen said.

“It changed my life,” Phillips added.

The panel told the audience of situations such as two schools co-existing in the same building, where two separate groups of students never interact with each other. A two-floor school building would essentially be teaching two completely different curriculae – Christians on one floor and Muslims on the other.

The day ended with a keynote speech by Andr?s Riedlmayer, a professor at Harvard University.

Riedlmayer told of the Serbian atrocities brought on to the Croats, Bosnians and Albanians, most of whom were Muslim. He gave specific examples of how the Serbs systematically destroyed mosques, bridges, scriptures and books of the Muslim people.

The Serbs were also responsible for the largest act of book-burning in history. On Aug. 25 and 26 of 1992, they burned 90 percent of the books in the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo. A quarter of a million records were lost, including land records and intellectual property records.