[this is part two in my series on hope]
In the former Yugoslavia, in Croatia, is the city of Vukovar. The horror of the war that broke Yugoslavia up was shown in the film “Harrison’s Flowers.” It is a pretty tough movie to watch in places because of its realism. Real is often tough.
Vukovar was once a thriving multi-ethnic city on the Danube river that had drawn thousands of people from all over Yugoslavia to work in a huge shoe factory and the related supporting industries. There were Croats, Serbs, Hungarians, Bosnians, Macedonians and others. But the war changed all that. In some senses, the war began with the siege of Vukovar from August 25 to November 18, 1991. Atrocities ensued and thousands fled the city.
I first went there six years ago during Thanksgiving 2003. What I saw then was a city that had, in many ways, been turned into a broken shell. Today, six years later, the city is on the mend, much of it is now repaired. But there is understandable mis-trust among groups since the war was fought along ethnic lines. A counselor there told me that many, perhaps most of the residents of Vukovar suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to their experiences and the physical state of the city. You don’t forget a war when the house across the street is empty because it was shelled and burned out in the war.
A friend of mine there fought in the war suffered greatly when he was captured and held in a prison camp. He suffered greatly for years after. Then he became a follower of Jesus and, over time, he began to see relief from his symptoms. Today he is well and is a leader of his church. God has and is doing works of reconciliation. People of different ethnicities are friends, co-workers, fellow worshipers. This amazingly vibrant church is one of the means God has used to bring blessing to people. A couple of years ago a house in town burned down. It was the home to a family of one ethnic group and it was incredible to see the people of other ethnic groups untie around these folks and help rebuild their home. There is great hope in reconciliation when people look to Jesus, as he is the great reconciler.
If you would like to donate to support the ongoing work of reconciliation in Vukovar by supporting the church there, you can do so at http://www.ceokids.org