Medical Aid for Kosovo
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Ithacans Say Farewell
to Bosnian Religious Leader
Ithaca Times, August 8, 2002
As the United States is still
recovering from terrorist attacks and tensions in the Middle East
continue to boil over, the words of Husein Kavasovic, a Bosnian
Muslim, had special relevance for a group of Ithacans who met Friday
Friends of Bosnia, a non-profit
humanitarian and educational organization, hosted the dinner to
say goodbye to Kavasovic, who is the Islamic leader of Tuzla, a
city located 80 miles north of Sarejevo. Kavasovic visited Ithaca
for six weeks as part of a de facto exchange program held between
Cornell and Tuzla University.
and its citizens, such as Kavasovic, are still recovering from the
1992-1996 war during which many civilians were massacred. Kavasovic
himself spent six months in a Croatian prision camp where people
were bludgeoned to death. "I saw many things that I want to forget,"
he said through a translator. "To talk about Bosnia gives me stage
Kavasovic's six week visit was
assisted by Janet Miller, the cultural attach� at the American embassy
in Bosnia, who has ties to Ithaca. Ithaca resident Chris Bragdon,
director of Bosnia projects for Friends of Bosnia, assisted with
hosting. He met with Kavasovic every Friday at Collegetown Bagels,
often with Wayles Browne, a Cornell professor of linguistics, to
have what they called their "Bosnian afternoon."
"Someone, by coincidence, would
always walk by who had donated to Bosnia, and he (Kavasovic) had
the idea that all Americans were extremely charitable," Bragdon
said. "I had to explain to him that there was a little bit of luck."
Bragdon said Kavasovic was interested
in how religion could assist with modern problems, so he introduced
him to a Christian faith-based counselor and others who could give
Kavasovic useful information to help his country.
Speaking at his farewell dinner,
Kavasovic said he believed the future of his country, in spite of
its brutal religious and ethnic conflicts, is positive.
"Bosnia was always a multi-ethnic
country," he said. Kavasovic said his ancestors were Christians,
and he noted that Bosnian Muslims welcomed Spanish Jews after they
were expelled in the late 15th century.
He also said that he hoped Americans
would learn more about traditional Islam and not let the actions
of terrorists color their perceptions of those of the Muslim faith.
"Most Muslims are not fundamentalists"
and not politically motivated, he said. "The Koran teaches that
Christians are the best friends of Muslims. Killing one person is
like killing all people."
While Kavasovic was in the prison
camp, he said he was sustained by the words of an old man, a Bosnian
of the Catholic faith, who visited the camp. The man repeatedly
said "Svi smo bozija djetca," which is Bosnian for "We are all God's
"I think Bosnia has a chance
because we want to live together," Kavasovic said. "Palestinians
and Israelis should come to Bosnia more often," he said.
"There is no guarantee that
the killing will not begin again," Bragdon said after the dinner.
"The difference in what Bosnia's future holds is in what we actually
do to build a democratic functioning society that brings out the
best in people."
To learn more about Friends
of Bosnia visit friendsofbosnia.org.