Goran Bozicevik – #WhatsYourPeace?

September 25, 2015

Engaging Croation War Veterans in Peacebuilding

 Since 2003, I have been involved in work with war veterans in post-Yugoslav countries. What kind of work?  I call it – one step further than DDR (disarmament, demobilization, reintegration)—in other words, empowering war veterans to become actively involved in peacebuilding.

This work has been supported by Quaker Peace & Social Witness in early years. It is pioneering work in our region of Western Balkans, and it is not easy work—it requires lots of active listening, patience, and tolerance but is highly inspiring and rewarding. War veterans are people whose voice against war, violence and hatred comes far and reach many. When a former brigade commander says: nonviolence is the path, it makes many people thinking and acting.

This work is mutually influencing and it can’t be one way only. I do change too  while I talk with them. Who is not ready for that and only want to change others, better not even to start.
Croatian war veterans are often seen and presented as nationalists and conservative. I met many other ones, real peacemakers. But to be honest working with ones who claim to be hard core nationalists are in a way much more rewarding. When we all come to the point of revelation that we all are humans first and that’s what counts, this is rewarding. I learnt that imposing things/beliefs on others brings me nowhere. Listening and asking questions opens many doors. Mutual respect, not fear, not faking, but respecting other human beings is the way.

These images are from a March 2015 workshop on Conflict Transformation for leaders within the Croatian War Invalides of Homeland War network in Zagreb, Croatia. Iva Zenzerovic, Director of Peace Studies at Center for Peace Studies www.cms.hr and I were trainers.  The workshop started with lots of laughing and skepticism, but when participants got involved in the exercises, silence turned into active discussions. What I learned is that war veterans really do need conflict transformation workshops. Conflict transformation continues even after peace talks and agreements, especially among the veterans who carry the trauma of war with them.

Peace demands a different approach.
None benefits including me if I win in all my conflicts – at least cause most of my daily conflicts are with my closest ones, so there is need for compromise, cooperation, satisfying needs of all sides involved.

Road from ex combatants to nonviolence is sometimes shorter than anyone would expect.

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