We Have to Become More Visible on the Streets

Article by organisers Reiner Braun, Lucas Wirl and Kristine Karch.

Over 2500 participants at the international Peace Event Sarajevo 2014

We have to counter the threat of war in the world more intensely and commonly and we have to interfere in the mankind question about “war and peace” with much more energy and more international actions. This was the single vote of all participants of the largest Peace Event in 2014, which took place on Pentecost with more than 190 workshops and many cultural events as well as a large youth camp in Sarajevo.
This Peace Event broke some taboos. A major taboo issue was the fact, that for the first time in 20 years a conference as a central part of the Event was discussing on the abolition of Nato. The vast majority of the population and the entire political class of the country supports BiH membership; at the congress Nato was subjected to fundamental criticism by international speakers including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, the program director of American Friends Service Committee Joseph Gerson and the chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament David Webb and Nato’s abolition was demanded. Another taboo issue, that has always been controversial, but also discussed with the aim of the shift towards a social and democratic union, was the role and importance of the European Union. Its further militarization was unanimously rejected.
“Peace is possible” – this was the common mood at the opening ceremony of the International Peace Event on Friday, June 6, 2014 in Sarajevo. We want "no more war and conflicts have to be resolved peacefully" – was the message of more than 900 people and peace activists from 32 countries at the opening ceremony.
The event attended by well-known international and national guests coined the common concern for peace in the face of increasing international confrontations, but also the certainty – as a lesson learned from history – peaceful solutions to conflicts are possible and the only way to avoid war. This must be desired politically and enforced by the people who yearn for peace worldwide.
The peace messages of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, Noam Chomsky, Hildegard Goss-Mayr, Verdiana Grossi, Chico Whitaker, Jasmila Zbanic with their deep contentual impact, emotional charge and unique expressiveness, associated themselves in the program with the expressive peace messages of many Bosnian pupils and students, striving together for peace and actively advocating for it. The traditional singing of the Sarajevo-choir "Pontamina" and the lively rhythms of young musicians from the group "Balsica" full of vitality and positive energy delighted the national and international audience.
"We need to accept and celebrate diversity and otherness" were the words of Mairead Maguire, who also appealed to all participants of the Peace Event: "Let the Sarajevo, where peace ended, be the starting point for the bold beginning of a universal call for peace through the wholesale abolition of militarism." Again and again the importance of the UNESCO culture of peace program as an alternative program to war and militarization was emphasized. Or as Ingeborg Breines from the International Peace Bureau (IPB) put it: "without non-violent actions it will just not work."
All discussions were held in the atmosphere of great solidarity, mutual respect, understanding and learning from each other. Peaceful coexistence was lived and celebrated on the large cultural event. Militarism alternatives have been intensively worked on. The discussion encompassed an impressive range of different topics: from the system question, non-violent actions, actions of civil courage to civil conflict resolution, prevention, disarmament and common security in the common house of Europe. These considerations were rarely confronted with each other and a more holistic approach is predominating. There is certainly no lack of anti-militarist proposals and considerations – but they must be politically intended and enforced against a policy that wages war for geo-strategic interests.   
Of particular importance was also the solidarity concert for the flood victims in the region, in which several groups from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also Manfred Maurenbrecher from Germany participated. Impressive was also the open air concert in memory of Pete Seeger, which took place on Sunday evening.
Many considerations for joint operations, including joint actions in 2015 (70 years after the end of World War II), a next international women’s conference, cross-border operations against the “fortress of Europe”, actions for peace in Syria, protests against the threat of war in Europe, an international campaign for the reduction of military spending were discussed at the Peace Assembly on Monday.
Much still needs to be reviewed and delivered. All that and also photos of this impressive Peace Event can be found on the website www.peaceeventsarajevo2014.eu.
The 1.5-year long preparation was anything but easy given the different cultural and social conditions, but ultimately successful. Any problems – including the financial ones – could be solved. In this respect the local conditions should also be taken into account.
All active peace groups like almost all civil society activists’ groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in other parts of the former Yugoslavia depend on the financial support from USAID or the European Union. Whether we like it or not – it is reality. If we want to work with them, we must take this into account. I would like to stress the complete independence and autonomy of all decisions related to the large- scale event.

The fact remains: a very exciting Pentecost weekend with many impulses is behind us and in front of us the insight: we’ll see each other again on the big demonstrations against the war.
Reiner Braun, Executive Director of IALANA, Co-President of IPB
Lucas Wirl, Program Director of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES)
Kristine Karch, International network "No to war – no to NATO"