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The International Conference “Children as Peacemakers in Divided Societies: Educational Approaches” opened in Sarajevo on Saturday, October 7th. The conference is a significant peace and educational project implemented by the War Childhood Museum and the International Association for Intercultural Education (IAIE) in collaboration with the COI Step by Step and the EuroClio – European Association of History Educators.

The conference lasts four days and brings together over 400 local and international experts in education, museology, human rights, and related fields. All participants from more than 30 countries can participate in over 250 workshops, presentations, and discussions. The conference program is divided into two segments: the first two days are intended for teachers’ workshops organized by Step by Step, while the third and fourth days are dedicated to academic sessions organized by WCM and IAIE.

The academic part of the conference was officially opened on Monday morning by the founder and CEO of the War Childhood Museum, Jasminko Halilovic, and the director of the International Association for Intercultural Education, Barry van Driel. In his introductory address, Jasminko Halilovic expressed great satisfaction that this peacebuilding conference is being organized in Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Sarajevo is the right place to discuss peacebuilding. The title of this conference is “Children as Peacemakers in Divided Societies,” and Bosnia and Herzegovina, indeed, is still a divided society. As all of you know, we had a devastating war in the 1990s. The war took over one hundred thousand lives in a country of 3 million. You can imagine how many are traumatized and how many are affected, almost everyone. As we talk, it’s 28 years since we signed a peace agreement and ended the war. But Bosnia is still very much a divided society, and today’s children, who we address in the title of this conference, are affected not only by intergenerational traumas but also by everyday tensions produced by politicians of this country. We have one of the highest brain drain rates in Europe. Young people are leaving because of the corruption and the political tensions about new possible conflict. So what we are trying to do in Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina is to build a safer future on our difficult past. And, here, we know that peace is not only a cession of conflict. We know peace is much more than that; we feel this daily.

As the War Childhood Museum, we wanted to bring children’s voices and views of the conflict into the public sphere. Today, the War Childhood Museum works with hundreds of schools in the country. Thousands of children every year participate in our educational programs. These are programs about childhood in war, but also how peacebuilding works and how children can contribute to this process. We hope that the WCM can be our small contribution to peacebuilding in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, stated Halilovic.

Barry van Driel also expressed satisfaction that Sarajevo is hosting this year’s conference. He emphasized the strong dedication of the International Association for Intercultural Education to peacebuilding. In its 39 years, this association has held meetings worldwide, so Bosnia and Herzegovina found itself with Mexico, Italy, Greece, France, and many other countries.

Via video link, Zlata Filipovic, the author of the famous diary entries from wartime Sarajevo later published in the book “Zlata’s Diary,” also addressed the attendees. “I was eleven when the war started. I always enjoyed reading and writing. When I was nine or ten, I read the Diary of Anne Frank, which I felt was a long history that can not happen again. I also had an older friend; she was three years older than me and kept a diary. I thought I should also keep one. I wanted to be as cool as she was to me. But when the war came to my life, to the life of my family, my city, it came to my diary, too. I started to write about how many bombs fell that day, who left the city, who was hurt, who was killed, and so on. I was keeping a diary with no intention of publishing it one day,” said Filipovic.

Thanks to its translation into English, “Zlata’s Diary” is essential literature about war childhood. The WCM Peace Education Resource Center includes excerpts from the diary recently published on our website. Resource Center also features ten activity plans for teachers who can implement them step by step in their classrooms.

“We hope that our collection, which now includes 6000 objects from 18 different armed conflicts starting with the Second World War to contemporary conflicts, like the Ukraine, where we also have an office as a museum, we hope that this collection can be a useful resource for educators and those who devote their lives to teach about peace,” concluded Halilovic.

The “Children as Peacemakers in Divided Societies: Educational Approaches” conference concludes on Tuesday, October 10th.

You can find all the information about the conference program here