Ottoman Treasures Live Again –
A few years ago I stood on the famous bridge, Stari Most, the old bridge in Mostar, just before its formal reopening. Last week I saw photographs of the newly re-built and restored Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka, north-west Bosnia. This work of the well-known architect, Sinan (or his pupils), was completed in 1579 CE. It was destroyed by explosives in May 1993, at a bad moment in the Bosnian war. Its beauty of form reminds me of Sinan’s mosque in Sur, a neighbourhood of Diyarbakir, the capital of south-east Turkey. I visited the latter at the beginning of November, and saw with sadness bullet-holes in its façade (completed in 1520 CE).
I would like to join in offering thanks to all those who helped to achieve the reconstruction of these two outstanding features of Bosnia. I pay special tribute to HRH the Prince of Wales and to the small British charity, the Soul of Europe. Prince Charles was involved in both cases, while without the leadership given by Rev Donald Reeves MBE, founder of the Soul of Europe, the Ferhadija would probably still be a bare site.
These two splendid monuments have risen like phoenixes from dusty rubble. They show what goodwill and hard work can accomplish. Bosnia, alas, remains a deeply-divided society. In this respect it reminds me of Northern Ireland. Let us take heart, however, from the re-building of magnificent stone-work, even if it may take longer to heal the scars and wounded memories of human hearts.
The Future: In 2016 a group of Bosnian voluntary organizations will hold a conference to start a process of national dialogue on the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This will be entitled “Novo Drustvo”, or The New Society. I believe this new effort will help release the latent energies of self-help that exist among the people of Bosnia. I trust that the Conference and its follow-up will make it easier for politicians within and outside Bosnia to give priority to the real needs of the people. May Bosnia soon be fully reconciled within itself and with all its neighbours.
Further information is available from the Soul of Europe – www.SoulofEurope.org