Bosnian Children Learning the ABC´s of Interreligious Dialogue

Offered by Free Catholic School in Sarajevo

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina, OCT. 5, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic school of Sarajevo is proving that children can be taught how to live with believers of other faiths.



The primary and secondary school, with a student population of 1,200, also includes a school of nursing. Just under half the student body is Catholic, 20% are Muslims, and the rest are the children of nonbelievers or mixed marriages.

The school is multireligious and multiethnic, and includes some 20 foreign students from places such as Korea, Japan, Palestine and Germany. They are the children of diplomats who reside in this capital city.

"The school is free and open to all," said Sister Davorka Saric, who is secretary, catechist to Catholics, and teacher of the history of religions in both the primary and secondary school.

"There are children from all social classes," she said. "There are many applications; sadly, we cannot admit all."

Knowledge of the different confessions is not limited to the classroom. At the opening and closing of the school year, there is a thanksgiving ceremony.

Curiosity leads to attendance of others´ liturgies, but without proselytism. "Sometimes Muslim children have told me that they come to Mass to see how we pray," Sister Saric explained.

Older children study in this school because of the 1990s civil war.

"The parents preferred their coming here because they were safer," the nun said. "There was electricity and a hot meal every day." They were also protected by a solid building.

After receiving a diploma, many students went abroad for further study. They said it was impossible to live in Sarajevo. But many are now returning.

"When they return, they all say: This is our second family," Sister Saric said. "In particular, those who were already in secondary school remember the harshness of those days. They want to forget it. I cried with them so many times and consoled them."

The school has new equipment, including a modern computer room, thanks to the help of Catholic churches worldwide. It is also subsidized by the state, which pays the teachers´ salaries.

Sister Saric still cannot understand the civil war that pitted Bosnians against Serbians. "We lived together for centuries, then, from one day to the next, neighbors stopped greeting one another," she recalled.

"One can live in friendship with these children, youths and their families," the nun added. "We must continue to work with those who want to live together to build a new Bosnia."