Debates on Europe VI-X

Sarajevo Debate on Europe

26.4. - 27.4.2017

Twentyfive years ago, in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed: Twelve member states joined to form the European Union, an important step towards European integration. Also in 1992 the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began, an event which marked the final disintegration of Yugoslavia. A short time ago the dissolving of the so-called Eastern Bloc had removed the cold war border that had cut through Germany and the whole subcontinent for so long. A new reality seemed to dawn. Excepting the inhabitants of the Balkan countries most people in East and West thought a Europe of peace, prosperity and democratic freedom immanent.

Today, in 2017, these earlier certainties and hopes seem highly questionable. Hardly a country is without its fierce debate about the desirability of membership within the European Union. The utopian hope for an open European community seems to have evaporated leaving behind a space apparently threatened from within and without; the very project of a common Europe is questioned. In many of these controversial discussions “identity” has become a key word. “Identity”, in ist populist version reduced to something held to be singular (historically, culturally, confessionly), feigns a safe special position to withdraw to. The democracies of Europe face these challenges under widely differing circumstances, but the challenge in every case wants to suvbvert the hopes once connected with the European project: hopes for a manifold unity.

The “Sarajevo Debate on Europe” offers a space to discuss questions about the difficulties and chances of the European project, in an open exchange of views. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, seems an especially apt place for this discussion about the coexistence of religious, cultural and national identities, about the handling of conflicts and the role of influences from abroad. Participating will be authors and scientists from several European countries.

The meeting is part of the continuing series “Debates on Europe” organized since 2012 by the S. Fischer Stiftung, the Allianz Kulturstiftung and the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung in different cities across the continent: so far in Budapest, Bukarest, Athens, Belgrade, Berlin, Narva, Minsk, Charkiv and St. Petersburg.

Ivo Marković
In-culturational Model of Relation among Cultures in the Symphony of Religions of the choir Pontanima

Just after the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina 1996 were members of all religions and believes invited to sing in the choir Pontanima a symphony of religious and cultural paradigms and so using art and spirituality to heal and reconcile Bosnian deeply wounded people. The goal was not only to meet and to initiate a dialogue with other religions or cultures, but to go deeper into other religions and cultures, in-acculturate in others, to take dress of others, to pray their prayers, to sing their songs, not to make any syncretism, not to be lost or assimilated in another identity, but to remove fear of communication and enable a more essential dialogue and interaction. The project was recognized as an unique model opening inspirational direction for interreligious and intercultural relations. Symptomatic is that Pontanima for its mission was awarded 2011 by Catholic Pax Christi, 2016 by Islamic Doha International Center for Interreligious Dialogue, and for Culture of Peace by Chirac Foundation and similar numerous recognitions all over the world.

Pontanima, meaning the bridge with soul, is a very elaborated project using art and spirituality for social change, not only music, but also painting, architecture, film, sport etc. (Markovic, The Use of Art in Social Change: A Case Study of the Pontanima Choir in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in: Voices of Harmony and Dissent, Winnipeg 2015, 172–201). In the actual interreligious and intercultural processes the in-culturational method offers mutual enriching and growth in identity, moving intercultural dialogue from surface to deeper levels. Closed religious, cultural, national and tribal systems tend to isolation and therefore experience in-culturation sometimes as endangerment and provocation. Power of art and spirituality, their highest achievements are a very opportune and effective tool penetrating such closed isolation and compelling them to be more open. Experiences of the choir Pontanima with some 500 concerts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the wounds and hatred were deepest, are a model of intercultural cooperation which can be exported from Bosnia-Herzegovina and applied in Europe and in other parts of the world.