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Bishop reflects on SFOR mission

By Sgt. William Wilczewski
First published in
SFOR Informer #80, February 2, 2000

Rajlovac - French Armed Forces Bishop Monsignor Michel Dubost visited French soldiers in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) Dec. 29 - Jan. 4.
Dubost, a Catholic, is no stranger to BiH having been here eight times since 1992. Over the years, he has seen the harsh reality of war.
"A lot of things have changed," he said, "but what didn't change is that you don't feel the political solution is improving."
He said that some people "don't accept the solution…because it means the end of their old identity. They agree on the idea of a multi-ethnical country, but they want their children to be taught in their own way of life. They want a local administration that respects their own culture."
Looking at the big picture, Dubost feels economic change is the key to the peace process. "It's difficult," he said. "When you go into the Republic of Serbska, they have far less international subsidies, and the children are the same kind of boys and girls as the others."
He does, however, feel things are improving. "I've seen people killed just a few metres in front of me. It's completely different now."
Dubost recalled a time when he was giving a sermon to French troops who were based near Zetra. "I remember a mass where people were shooting the glass out - and now the camp is a supermarket," he said, adding that we must look to our past as a beacon of hope for our future.
"Imagine Christmas 1945," he said. "At that time, was it possible to imagine the reconciliation of Germany and France six months after the war? It was not possible.
"When you use force, you use it to give people the time to meet together and reconstruct something. We are giving them the time..."
From the beginning of time, many wars have been fought over religion, but according to Dubost, this is not one of them. Some political leaders use religion for financial and political purposes to motivate soldiers. "You can not ask somebody to kill someone else for money…so when you want to gather people for war you have to make things holy. So they use religion, but they are not religious, and it is not a religious war," he added. "Most religious people are against war."
Dubost prays for peace in this region, but said people must "first, try to make peace in your own heart. Be intelligent. Do your job. Don't accept putting people in categories. There are criminals - there have been a lot here, but a population is not the criminal (...) you can not say the Serbs are, or the Muslims are, (or the) Croatians are. That's not true."
He also said people must try to make links with each other, and try to "shake hands."
The warring factions must help themselves if they really want peace. "The people have to invent rules and regulations and we can not do it for them. We can just stop them from fighting, and give them the time and conditions to meet. But in the end they have to meet and invent their own rules and regulations."
DuBost also emphasised that SFOR forces must be humble. "We have far more money than they have. It is so easy when you have money, when you have power, and when you have guns to say who is good and who is evil. We can not do that," he said. "When you have people that have everything and they tell you that you are a bad man, and you have nothing to eat - why should they listen to you?"

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France