USAID’s STaR project works to increase empathy and tolerance among members of the multiple ethnoreligious groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina by catalyzing religious leaders, religion teachers, youth, and municipal leaders in community reconciliation efforts. USAID’s implementing partner in this two-year $1.5 million program is the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding.

The social fabric of life in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was torn apart by the 1992-1995 war. Today, more than two decades after the Dayton Peace Accords, the country remains frayed and divided along wartime identities, while high unemployment, rampant corruption, and distrust of politicians and institutions leave many cynical about the country, reconciliation, and the future.


Through its STaR project, USAID supports organizations and local actors to inculcate reconciliation ideals in schools, faith communities, and municipal governments. USAID’s hypothesis is that after cynical and biased persons see those they respect espousing and exemplifying reconciliation, they will be transformed and thus more open to being agents of change themselves. As such, this project brings together powerful religious and secular actors who operate in separate spheres to serve as voices of peace, thereby exemplifying reconciliation personally, and to provide multiple opportunities for members of the community to hear messages of tolerance and acceptance of all ethnoreligious groups. The project specifically targets those who are resistant to or ambivalent about reconciliation programs.


The project, launched in late 2018, works in 10 communities chosen for their diverse demographics. Religious leaders of all major faith groups, religion teachers, and youth within the schools have been selected as the project’s initial agents of change. In facilitated intergroup encounters, these core participants will share and acknowledge their personal stories and grievances in a manner that leads to mutual understanding and transforms historical narratives and animus. These agents of change will in turn engage municipal and community leaders in reconciliation efforts.

To reach the broader community, religion teachers will introduce interfaith curricula and, together with religious leaders, will meet with municipal and community leaders to explore community-wide opportunities to build social cohesion. These groups will join youth participants in a variety of intergenerational community events – film screenings, traveling exhibitions, public discussions, etc. – that focus on reconciliation and rehumanization to rekindle a sense of empathy.

To amplify impact, the STaR project will also organize youth-led peace caravans, disseminate success stories on social media, and support a public interfaith event in Sarajevo with national-level religious leadership.


  • Increased empathy for and tolerance among members of ethnoreligious groups;
  • More religious leaders, religion teachers, youth, and municipal leaders engaged in reconciliation efforts; and
  • Effects of ethnoreligious segregation are reduced, resulting in more resilient communities.

Last updated: February 11, 2019

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