Mayor Kordic, Speaker Maric, respected victims in war and heroes in peace, Mostar city councilors, ladies and gentlemen.
The photo portraits of war victims presented here today prove to us that it is possible to transform personal pain into positive action, and in doing so, to promote peace and reconciliation.
The horror of war leaves deep wounds on everyone involved, and it is important to recognize both the individual and collective suffering of all who experience it. It is equally important to use that awareness as a source of our shared humanity. These war victims – and now, champions of peace – should serve as an inspiration to us all.
Still, these heroes need our support to continue their healing process. In particular, they need access to the places where they suffered. War survivors from Mostar have already united to advocate for access to these places for the sake of remembrance. Their individual path of healing is society’s path of healing, and we should support them.
These and other issues from the past can prevent the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina from moving toward a peaceful and prosperous future, if there is no effort to accept and acknowledge the facts, teach the truth to future generations, and honor the victims. That is the only road to a future that reconciles the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that heals and binds the wounds of this country, and that guarantees a just and lasting peace between the children and grandchildren of those who suffered and died between 1992 and 1995.
I am proud that the U.S. government, through USAID’s PRO-Future project, supported the “Personal” exhibition. Mostar can become a role model for the rest of the country in overcoming obstacles and divisions if the leaders of the city decide to make it one. Their support for this exhibit is a good start.
So, thank you Mayor Kordic, Speaker Maric, and members of the City Council, for hosting and attending this event. By doing so, you demonstrated to the people of this city and to the country as a whole the importance of providing a space in which we can genuinely learn from the past, hear from all sides, and understand the suffering of others. Far too often, especially among the country’s political class, the focus is on what divides Bosnia and Herzegovina, or worse on dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina further.
The country needs more days like today, more events like this, and more honest reflection about the past so it can build a better future for everyone.
I also thank the creators of this fine exhibition and the real peace heroes for all your efforts to share messages of peace and reconciliation. Your work in building a better society is fundamental to the future stability and prosperity of this country. And the U.S. government stands by you all the way. Thank you.