Young Activist Becomes Agent for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sulejman Abazović, youth leader and peace activist in Bistrica, stands next to images of local youth working together to improve their communities.
Sulejman Abazović, youth leader and peace activist in Bistrica, stands next to images of local youth working together to improve their communities.
USAID PRO-Future Project
Divided municipality works to build trust among ethnic groups
“The people realized that they can and should work together, regardless of nationality or religion. This is the huge step forward for this municipality.”

August 2017—“The situation in Bistrica was pretty bad, but it is slowly improving, and communication and cooperation among youth now is impressive,” said Sulejman Abazović, a young resident of that community, with a smile.

Bistrica is a community in Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje, a town with a difficult past illustrated by its hyphenated name and where “two schools under one roof” still exists. It is located in the central part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and inhabited predominantly by Bosniaks and Croats. During the war of 1992-95, these two ethnic groups fought fiercely, and the conflict left deep scars and trauma on the people living in Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje.

Born in Gornji Vakuf-Uskoplje, Abazović is a student at the Faculty for Criminalistics and Security at the University of Sarajevo. He said he became involved in reconciliation and peace-building in Bistrica when he realized that, while he knew whether his fellow students or closest neighbors were Croat or Bosniak, he did not know anything else about them. His first opportunity to get to know and bring together people from different ethnic and religious groups came through USAID’s PRO-Future project, which engages youth to promote trust, understanding and responsibility for the future of their communities.

“From house to house, I did not even know their names—not until I joined the PRO-Future project and we took the first steps toward meeting and friendship,” said Abazović.

He hopes to prevent his younger friends from living through his own experience of not having a schoolmate from a different ethnic background in all his years of formal education. He has already successfully completed three projects, all focused on building trust and reconciliation among people from different ethnic groups in Bistrica and Gornji Vakuf/Uskoplje. He is now working on a fourth project, “Let’s Give Youth an Opportunity to Build a Community.”

“The projects were implemented with dialogue … and friendship … and singing,” explained Abazović, noting that he has huge support from his friends and fellow students, who have become members of this informal group of activists.

“The people realized that they can and should work together, regardless of nationality or religion. This is the huge step forward for this municipality, and also a good indicator for development of a local situation,” said Tijana Šekerija, another local agent of peace who is a working member of the PRO-Future project.

Abazović says he and his fellow agents of peace will keep working to build trust and reconciliation, not only in Bistrica, but in other communities as well, to make their country a better place, as much as they are able.

USAID’s PRO-Future project, which runs from 2013 to 2017, is designed to rebuild trust and confidence among citizens of all ethnic backgrounds in BiH, providing opportunities for leaders and citizens to challenge and transform their own beliefs and to begin transforming their communities. The project has engaged more than 100,000 citizens in 60 targeted municipalities. 

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Last updated: August 01, 2017

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