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Center for Balkan
Development

2 CLOCK TOWER PLACE #510
MAYNARD, MA 01754
Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
info@balkandevelopment.org
www.balkandevelopment.org

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 night.
      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.

  Bosnia 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 fright."
      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 children."
      "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.