Speaker brings the Bosnian conflict home
By David Pichler
Published on Thursday, February 16, 1995
Gary Shapiro passed a mortar shell that was fired in the Bosnia-Herzegovinan conflict around a room at Panarchy undergraduate society last night so students could "feel what war is."
Shapiro, who has made several trips to the war-ravaged Eastern European state, spoke to a handful of students last night about his experiences in the conflict.
Shapiro, who is affiliated with Montpelier, Vt.-based Conflict Resolution Catalysts, has spent time in Bosnia setting up "conflict resolution centers."
The mission of these centers is to begin "programs oriented towards empowering citizens to make a difference in their community," Shapiro said.
A new center, called "Ljudska Provezanost," or "People Connection," will open in Sarajevo this spring and will be followed by the opening of a second center in Banjaluka in June.
Banjaluka is in the interior of the Serbian held area of Bosnia, known as the Republika Serbska. Shapiro said he gained access to the tightly controlled area on the condition that he not take any photographs.
To illustrate the hardships of the drawn-out war, Shapiro showed students shell casings he had collected from Bosnian streets and used a number of slides during his two-hour presentation.
One series of slides showed a doorway in Sarajevo drenched in blood and that same doorway several months later operating as a booth in one of Sarajevo's thriving outdoor markets.
Another image showed a sign at the Sarajevo Holiday Inn, stating that: "Due to extreme war conditions, we would appreciate if all guests would settle their bill within seven days in cash."
Shapiro, in his speech, did not make any judgments on the warring sides. "We are not in a position to judge the validity of each side's position," he said. "That doesn't mean that I don't have opinions. The guilt is not equal, but their is guilt on both sides."
Still, he criticized the role of the United Nations peacekeeping troops. "They like to hold press conferences," he said.