“Adversity brings people together,” Father Simo Marsic, rector of the St. John Paul II Youth Pastoral Center in Sarajevo, told the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.
“(I)t was impressive to see the extent to which people – whether Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim – were united by suffering,” the priest said May 26.
Floods caused by heavy rains have killed at least 40 people and displaced thousands more in Bosnia-Herzegovina and neighboring Serbia, the BBC reports. One quarter of the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina now lacks clean water. The country’s foreign minister has compared the physical damage to the damage of the 1992-1995 war during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, a war which was fought largely along ethnic and religious lines.
Fr. Marsic said it is impossible to assess the destruction so far. The floods are the worst in 120 years and have affected all 40 parishes of the Archdiocese of Sarajevo, which serves about 60,000 Catholics.
The priest said that the damage has particularly affected survivors of the war, many of whom lost all their possessions two decades ago.
Landslides pose a special risk to homes and individuals. The floods have also changed the position of unremoved land mines, while decaying animal cadavers pose a risk of epidemic disease.
However, the natural disaster has helped create solidarity among all people as these tensions were “forgotten,” Fr. Marsic said.
He said that “by the grace of God” people were “overcoming walls which exist between the ethnic groups and religions.”
He noted that after a saint’s statue was washed out of a church, a Muslim man found it in the street and returned it.
The employees of Fr. Marsic’s youth pastoral center have supported the Catholic relief organization Caritas by distributing aid to flood victims.
The European Union has also promised aid.
Amid the “inconceivable amount of devastation” caused by floods in Bosnia-Herzegovina, people are crossing ethnic and religious lines to help those affected.
Natural disasters, Peace, Interreligious dialogue