Day Four of Retreat

Day 4:

We use the phrase Working Retreat with intention. It’s a bit of a mad week with all that we try to do and discuss. Joyce (Tanenbaum’s Executive Vice President) started before the day officially began with an optional breakfast session on NGO management strategies. Folks were clearly hungry for this type of discussion, for tips and first-hand experience on how to squeeze every ounce of efficiency and potential from their work.

Having said that folks are working very hard, this was the day perhaps most resembling a ‘retreat.’ We loaded our rag-tag group of scholars, activists, dignitaries, teachers and clergy (to suggest a few of the roles and personalities on board) into a bus and headed to Mostar. I’ve got to go buy fruits and nuts for an afternoon snack in a few moments, so I don’t have time to tell you much about this city. Suffice it, until you look it up on Wikipedia, to say that it is a UNESCO site with a famous (and beautiful) bridge that was destroyed during the war. Though the bridge was rebuilt, and we were all able to stand on it together, the city itself is still one of the most divided in Bosnia. Literally, one side of the river is Bosnian Croat and the other is Bosnian Muslim. We met a representative of the mayor’s office and with religious clergy, one Catholic and one Muslim. They told us about the wonderful work that is being done and also the tremendous amount of work that has yet to begin.

Walking through the city of Mostar, then returning to the bus deep in conversation during the drive to the River Buna, then hearing Imam Ashafa chant in a Sufi meditation center that is one of the regions’ most cherished places of prayer, I felt filled and satisfied on many levels. Did I mention the sun was shining? And then, as evening fell on this river that is one of the largest sources of clean drinking water in Europe, as we ate our freshly caught fish, I noticed that the moon was also full. 

–Heather DuBois

Day One and Two of Retreat

Tanenbaum PeacemakersJoyce Dubensky, awards ceremonyAward Recipients with Bosnian Presidentssnowy-cathedral.jpgsnow daysnowcapped-bosniak-institute.jpg

Day 1: It was incredible to be in a room with people from all over the world. Moreover, to be with people from ‘remote’ parts of the world. And then when you consider who these people are, when you think about the work that they do and the risks that they take…well, incredible is an appropriate word.

The opening session of the Retreat was a round of introductions – old friends sharing the past 18 months, others meeting for the first time. If it wasn’t so poignant, it would have been humorous – trying to fit so many (17) dramatic life and work stories in the space of two hours. We were comforted in knowing it was only the beginning.

Day 2

Father Alex Reid tells me the only thing we’ve failed at – in our organization – is not controlling the weather. Many appeared prepared for fall, but Sarajevo decided to rush it’s winter in order to bless us with the year’s first snow today! Ah, it is a beautiful city, and when covered in thick whiteness, it is tremendous. It reminds one of why this historical crossroads was also, once, the Olympic City. I bought new waterproof shoes and a round of umbrellas. We are all enjoying our warm, Bosnian coffee very much.

I can’t talk about this second day without mentioning the workshops – with their presentation on Conflict Resolution from an Interreligious Perspective, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James, from Nigeria, stole the show, rocked the house, wooed the crowd. I think all of the Peacemakers were pleased to be so impressed and informed by two of “their own.” It was a nice introduction – or for some, a reminder – of why it’s such a privilege and indeed almost a practical necessity to be part of such a network.

Then we heard from Father Reid, who I’ve already mentioned. As he says, he has before spoken an hour and a half without stopping in response to one question. It was appropriate that Father Reid provided a lunchtime session, as his storytelling (about the Irish and Basque Peace Processes) is legendary far and wide.

Oh, I must get back to the group, but first let me tell you about the awards ceremony and meeting with the Bosnian Presidency. Set in an old Turkish bathhouse, come renovated modern institute, the evening was filled with the power but also the charm and concern of diplomats, press and community members. Can I please emphasize that the Peacemakers and Tanenbaum were hosted not only by the wonderful people of Bosnia – and especially Friar Ivo and Oci u Oci – but also by the Bosnian Presidency! It was a great honor to meet the presidents of this fine country, men who know first-hand the tragedy of war and the importance of peacemaking. It was clear, as an observer, which I was, that the respect in the room was mutual.

–Heather DuBois, Tanenbaum Religion and Conflict Resolution Program Associate

By the way, welcome to Moving Beyond Differences!

We’ll be posting about questions and issues that come up during our events and trainings that are either (1) new to us, (2) of interest to you (we hope!), (3) ongoing hot topics that we’d love to hear from you about or (4) just plain interesting.

We hope you’ll be part of this conversation with us!

The 2007 Working Retreat starts Sunday

Our 2007 Peacemakers working retreat starts this Sunday, 10/21, in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our Peacemakers will will meet, network and learn from each other, and we’ll be welcoming 5 new awardees into the Peacemakers network – including the inaugural winners of our Women’s Peace Initiative award. You can learn more about the retreat on our main site.

Stay tuned here as well for daily updates from our staffers in Sarajevo!