Using Music to Build Partnership
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a mountainous Balkan country slightly smaller than Alabama. The country’s 3.8 million citizens are split into three major ethnicities: Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Serbs. Bosnia and Herzegovina gained its independence during the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, but the country immediately fell into a bloody, three-year civil war fought along ethnic lines. Today, the country is at peace but its citizens remain divided along ethnic lines. Before Bosnia and Herzegovina can move forward, it must heal from its past.
Due to forced migration during the conflict, many towns and villages are more ethnically homogenous today than before the fighting of the 1990s. Ethnic homogeneity – with no counterpoint to prove otherwise – allows biases to take root, increases fear and anxiety towards the other group, and reduces empathy. An example of this is the reputation of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite their primary function of protecting the entirety of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country’s interethnic military is viewed warily and lacks legitimacy among all three ethnicities. To heal the ethnic tensions and reduce prejudice between ethnic groups, Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Serbs need to interact with each other.
Spirit of America has partnered with NATO Headquarters Sarajevo and the Armed Forces Band of Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide a unique solution to this problem. Spirit of America and NATO will provide new and used musical instruments to middle and high school students at eight schools around Bosnia. Then, members of the Armed Forces Band of Bosnia and Herzegovina will help the children learn to play music by leading workshops and teaching classes. The project will culminate in a joint “Unity Concert” with all involved students and their families. This project is based on the idea of contact theory; that interpersonal contact between ethnic groups reduces prejudice. As music is such a significant part of Balkan culture, we will use music to bridge the ethnic divides and to help heal the lingering wounds from the 1990s conflict.