Julianne Funk


Conflict and coexistence remain in a tense balance in the Western Balkans. Latent conflict, in which one’s ethno-religious community denotes which side you are on, persist after the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. These frozen and potential lines of conflict were laid decades and centuries ago, when religious affiliation diversified. At the same time, these religious, ethnic and national communities have a history of suživot: everyday relations with one another, or coexistence. The close geographic proximity of communities makes functional relational systems, which determine when, where and how people tend to interact, a practical necessity.212 As a result of this necessity to coexist, religions in the Western Balkans usually perceive ‘decent’, neighbourly behaviour and friendly relations with ethno-religious others as a sign of faith (Funk Deckard 2012, Funk 2013).

Both conflict and coexistence signal relationship; as the peace scholar-practitioner John Paul Lederach puts it, ‘relationship is the basis of both the conflict and its long-term solution’ (1997, 26). In the post-war setting of Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, relationship with one’s former opponents is generally unwanted and even avoided. Ethnic cleansing in wartime successfully segregated Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ethno-religious communities in terms of geography and the violent methods produced emotional segregation. Social segregation, however, fails to engage the basic fact of relatedness within the state structure, not to mention a shared history and future. This choice to not relate may seek to avoid conflict, but it can also limit opportunities for change. Notably, the country is currently stuck in polarised, nationally oriented politics, hindering necessary reforms. Citizens and external observers commonly see these stalled reforms and oppositional politics as a major obstacle to the country’s development and the well-being of all its people.



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