Bosnia's Muslims, Jews, Christians chide politicians

SARAJEVO, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Bosnia's religious leaders say politicians are standing in the way of peaceful coexistence between Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities trying to forgive and forget after the atrocities of a devastating 1990s war.

Hundreds of churches, mosques and synagogues bear witness to more than five centuries of Bosnia's multi-faith past, and the capital Sarajevo is known locally as a "small Jerusalem" with its main ethnic groups - Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks - all worshipping within meters of each other.

But Mufti Husein Kavazovic, head of the Islamic community in Bosnia, says people of faith cannot achieve peace alone.

"It is up to political elites to do more. For a start, it would be good that they stop their ideological manipulation of religion for their own political goals. It is up to us, of course, not to allow them to do that," he said.

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Religious leaders take on politicians in hopes of peace
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Religious leaders take on politicians in hopes of peace
People walk past the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 28, 2017. Supervising architect Josip Vancas modelled the 19th century cathedral after the Notre-Dame in Dijon, France. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Decorations adorn the walls of Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 20, 2017. The mosque dates to 1757. "Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik is famous because it has many different colours inside. You can compare that with different religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia is beautiful and colourful precisely because of its multiculturalism. That is the true value of this country, which we should preserve and nurture," Effendi Ibranovic Dzemail said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Decorative paintings adorn the walls and ceiling of Zitomislic Serbian Orthodox monastery in Zitomislici, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. The monastery dates to 1566, and took more than 40 years to complete. "It is very important that we have here different cultures and religions, and that based on that we can easily build and verify our own identities," Hierodeacon Nektarije said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Orthodox Temple Hercegovacka Gracanica stands in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. Serbian poet Jovan Ducic (1871-1943) is buried at the temple. He was originally buried at Saint Sava Orthodox monastery in Libertyville, U.S., but was reinterred at Hercegovacka Gracanica when the temple opened in 2000 in accordance with his wishes. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
A copy of the Koran lies on a carpet at Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 20, 2017. "Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik is famous because it has many different colours inside. You can compare that with different religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia is beautiful and colourful precisely because of its multiculturalism. That is the true value of this country, which we should preserve and nurture," Effendi Ibranovic Dzemail said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
A crucifix is fixed to the roof of The Old Church in Vares, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 22, 2017. It is one of the oldest preserved catholic churches in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is dedicated to St. Michael, the patron saint of the parish of Vares. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
A decorative wooden door is seen at Zitomislic Serbian Orthodox monastery in Zitomislici, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. The monastery dates to 1566, and took more than 40 years to complete. "It is very important that we have here different cultures and religions, and that based on that we can easily build and verify our own identities," Hierodeacon Nektarije said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Hierodeacon Nektarije poses for a photograph at Zitomislic Serbian Orthodox monastery in Zitomislici, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. The monastery dates to 1566, and took more than 40 years to complete. "It is very important that we have here different cultures and religions, and that based on that we can easily build and verify our own identities," Nektarije said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Zitomislic Serbian Orthodox Monastery stands amongst trees in Zitomislici, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. The monastery dates to 1566, and took more than 40 years to complete. "It is very important that we have here different cultures and religions, and that based on that we can easily build and verify our own identities," Hierodeacon Nektarije said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
An entrance leads to an underground church and crypt in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina, August 6, 2017. The site dates to the end of the 14th century. Duke Hrvoje Vukcic Hrvatinic had the site built as a final resting place for himself and his family. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
A detail of a section of a wall is seen at Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 20, 2017. "Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik is famous because it has many different colours inside. You can compare that with different religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia is beautiful and colourful precisely because of its multiculturalism. That is the true value of this country, which we should preserve and nurture," Effendi Ibranovic Dzemail said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Decorative paintings adorn the walls and ceiling of Sarajevo Ashkenazi Synagogue in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 28, 2017. The Sarajevo Ashkenazi Synagogue was designed by architect Karel Parik and built in 1902. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Light filters through decorative windows inside Shishman Ibrahim Pasha Mosque in Pocitelj, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. Shishman Ibrahim Pasha Mosque dates to 1562 and is a single-dome mosque. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
The interior of the Old Synagogue is seen in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, August 2, 2017. The Sephardi Synagogue dates to 1581. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Decorative paintwork adorns the walls and ceiling of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 28, 2017. Supervising architect Josip Vancas modelled the 19th century cathedral after the Notre-Dame in Dijon, France. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Rabbi's assistant Igor Kozemjakin poses for a photograph at Sarajevo Ashkenazi Synagogue in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, August 2, 2017. Sarajevo Ashkenazi Synagogue dates to 1902. "For Jews as members of a minority ethnic and religious group in Bosnia and Herzegovina, multiculturalism is a positive thing, because it is very important to have this kind of diversity," Kozemjakin said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
A man prays at Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 20, 2017. Sulejmanija Mosque dates to 1757. "Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik is famous because it has many different colours inside. You can compare that with different religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia is beautiful and colourful precisely because of its multiculturalism. That is the true value of this country, which we should preserve and nurture," Effendi Ibranovic Dzemail said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Chairs are lined up in Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Cathedral in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. The Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Cathedral dates to 1888. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Effendi Ibranovic Dzemail poses for a photograph inside Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 20, 2017. "Sulejmanija Mosque in Travnik is famous because it has many different colours inside. You can compare that with different religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia is beautiful and colourful precisely because of its multiculturalism. That is the true value of this country, which we should preserve and nurture," Dzemail said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Shishman Ibrahim Pasha Mosque stands in Pocitelj, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. Shishman Ibrahim Pasha Mosque dates to 1562 and is a single-dome mosque. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Sarajevo Ashkenazi Synagogue stands in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 28, 2017. The Sarajevo Ashkenazi Synagogue was designed by architect Karel Parik and built in 1902. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
A statue stands in the interior of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 28, 2017. Supervising architect Josip Vancas modelled the 19th century cathedral after the Notre-Dame in Dijon, France. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
A chandelier hangs from the ceiling at Kraljeva Sutjeska Franciscan monastery in Kraljeva Sutjeska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 22, 2017. Kraljeva Sutjeska Franciscan monastery dates to 1385. "Bosnia can only survive as a multi-ethnic state, no matter how much politicians try to convince us that this is not possible," Friar Zeljko Brkic said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
Paintings cover the ceiling of Orthodox Temple Hercegovacka Gracanica in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 27, 2017. Serbian poet Jovan Ducic (1871-1943) is buried at the temple. He was originally buried at Saint Sava Orthodox monastery in Libertyville, U.S., but was reinterred at Hercegovacka Gracanica when the temple opened in 2000 in accordance with his wishes. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
Friar Zeljko Brkic poses for a photograph inside Kraljeva Sutjeska Franciscan monastery in Kraljeva Sutjeska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 22, 2017. Kraljeva Sutjeska Franciscan monastery dates to 1385. "Bosnia can only survive as a multi-ethnic state, no matter how much politicians try to convince us that this is not possible," Brkic said. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic 
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Even though nationalists from all three ethnic groups still insist on exclusivity for their own groups, religious leaders are keen to heal rifts after the 1992-1995 war in which about 100,000 civilians were killed and millions displaced.

Friar Zeljko Brkic at Kraljeva Sutjeska - among the oldest Franciscan monasteries in Bosnia and dating from 1385 - said: "Bosnia can only survive as a multi-ethnic state, no matter how much politicians try to convince us that this is not possible."

His Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim peers agree.

"It is very important that we have here different cultures and religions, and that based on that we can easily build and verify our own identities," said Nektarije, a deacon at the Orthodox monastery Zitomislici in what is now the Catholic Croat-dominated southern part of the country.

Jakob Finci, the president of the Jewish community in Bosnia, gives Sarajevo as an example of close cooperation, citing Muslims there helping Jews to hide during War World Two and Jews providing food for people of all faiths in the three-year siege by Bosnian Serb forces.

"Sarajevo is the best proof that living together is possible and that it represents the only way of life for us," he said.

This week, about 120 leaders from 27 countries arrived in Sarajevo to take part in a meeting of the youth-led Muslim Jewish Conference, founded by Ilja Sichrovski in Vienna in 2010.

"We feel at home here," Sichrovski said.

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