I will greet you with the medieval Bosnian open hand salute. This salute was carved six centuries ago in the town of Stolac and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
An open hand print from the Perito Moreno Cave, Santa Cruz, Argentina, is as old as the dominance of wise man / homo sapiens: approximately 15-16 thousand years. This is the period when homo sapiens won and remained the only human species on the planet as other human species became extinct.
The open hand symbol does not randomly coincide with the onset of dominance of sapiens, wise man. An open hand symbolizes PEACE. A sensible man holds his hand open, thus showing the other man that he is hiding nothing, that he has no weapon, that he has no hidden or evil intentions, that he wants friendship and peace. An open hand has opened up avenues for large-scale cooperation to human kind. This has made it possible to connect millions of people in the pursuit of common goals, and the result is the incredible and rapid progress of homo sapiens as we have today.
I will also tell you a few facts from my life experience that are essential for my understanding of "peace with no borders" and for what I want to tell you today. I am a journalist by profession. As a reporter, I have witnessed the pre-war and war events in the Balkans in the 1990’s. I have made my professional statement about it in the documentary series "The Death of Yugoslavia" as part of the BBC team.
I spent the war in Sarajevo. The Army of the Republika Srpska kept my city, a Muslim/Bosniak-majority city, under siege for 1,425 days. In April 1992, the war criminal Radovan Karadžić called on all Serbs to leave the city "safely". I am a Serb, but I decided to stay with all my neighbours and fellow citizens, no matter what religion or nation, because I have lived with them all my life.
I am not a believer, but I respect religion and the people who are believers. My wife is a believer, and my best friends are believers.
Of 45 years of the state of Yugoslavia, I lived there for the first 38 years of my life and the last 38 years of its existence. It was a country where different peoples and religions COEXISTED, lived together. We used a romantic name for that life, "brotherhood and unity." Thus, at that time, regardless of ethnic and religious differences, it was expressed that all people were brothers, that we were all one by nature, that we all belonged to the same genus HOMO, and to the same species SAPIENS.
My country Bosnia and Herzegovina is a unique example of social development on the planet. Coexistence of people of different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds is a natural phenomenon. It is the result of thousands of years of authentic, organic and historical process of coexistence of diversity in a very small area. The philosophy of coexistence rests on a principle that prefers similarities among people, which are dominant, rather than differences, which are indisputable.
Sarajevo is a city of four of the world's largest religions; we are used to listening to church bells and mujesin's (Muslim priest) call to prayer at the same time. For centuries, a synagogue, a mosque, a Catholic church, and an Orthodox church, have been standing next to each other, within a circle of 100 meters. A Parisian asked a friend of mine, the writer Dževad Karahasan: You Sarajevans overemphasize multiethnicity as if it existed nowhere else, and I have Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, in the same doorway of the building where I live...
- And who is your first neighbour? - the writer asked.
- Some Hindus - answered the Parisian.
- What do you know about him, his lifestyle, customs ...?
- I have no idea - he replied.
- You see, that's the difference, we know everything about each other - from birth, marriage, holidays, prayer... we don't live side by side, we live together.
In today's world, we don't know each other enough. Google knows more about all of us than we know about each other. Not long ago, during the month of Ramadan, I and my colleague were guests of the mayor of a metropolis in the European Union. Since my colleague was fasting, the hosts asked me several times, being afraid that they would offend my colleague, whether a bottle of water or juice may be on the table as usually. I realized that our host had never had the opportunity to have coffee with a Muslim during Ramadan.
When I was a student tourist guide, I would tell the visitors of Sarajevo that here is the last point from East to West and the last point from West to East. That point is not the limit, it is an encounter, a connecting point. When you come to Sarajevo, take a selfie from that point with West in the background; turn 180 degrees in the same place and you will have photos with the Orient behind you.
The greatest social and civilizational value of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina is the tradition of coexistence. We have never lived side by side, but together. This is why the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of wars. Those have always been conflicts against our traditional way of life.
Open hand is peace among people, and a closed hand means separating and drawing the borders that divide people. These borders are always red, like human blood. Sarajevo is a city of peace, not because there have been no wars here, but because despite the many wars, the principle of the coexistence of diversity has never been defeated, as the natural way of life of our city and its people.
In the history of my city and my country, periods of integration and disintegration, the principle of open and closed hand, alternated, but in the end, authentic Bosnia has always won.
About thirty years ago, the forces of disintegration began to violently change the traditional way of Bosnian life, to oversize our differences, and to diminish what we have in common. That is how boundaries between different nations and religions are imposed, that is how peace is jeopardized. That is an anti-civilization process because, like nowhere else in the world, Bosnian civilization reached the highest level of harmony of differences in its history at the end of the twentieth century. This harmony has been questioned for thirty years, and thereby the survival of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state. And the survival of the Bosnian social model is not only of local importance but also of global importance.
I will again quote the writer Dževad Karahasan when he says that Bosnia is the paradigm of the whole world. Bosnia is a small and geopolitically insignificant state, but its social heritage is of planetary importance. World War I started in Bosnia, but world peace begins here. If Muslims, Jews, Serbs, and Croats here accept to live together and decide on common things, then it is also possible globally that 196 countries, and people who speak about 6000 different languages on the planet, find a "common language" for joint decisions.
Modern homo sapiens has reached its greatest power in history. The revolutionary advancement of science and technology creates "problems" affecting all eight billion people on the planet, creating the need for all 196 states to make common decisions that are in the interest of ALL.
The planetary coexistence of homo sapiens is important for its survival.
The growing list of global issues cannot be resolved within any border, even of the most powerful countries. There are no borders for infectious diseases, there are no borders for global warming, borders cannot stop the effects of melting even if they were made of high concrete walls. Nuclear danger is constant and global. If left unchecked, the digital revolution can become a counter-revolution, and go the wrong way, against the interests of MAN.
The modern development of science and technology in the 21st century is going far faster than modern societies can follow. We still have social relations of the 20th and even 19th centuries. This gap can become a great danger to peace.
Today we still have the symbol of open hand from Perito Moreno or medieval Bosnia as a handshaking custom, as a symbol of peace among all people regardless of religion, nation or culture.
In the end, I would like to greet you with a symbolic handshake, because the message of homo sapiens 16 thousand years old has never been more important for its survival than it is now.