Bible Society, West Balkan Partnership, Bible projects, Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bible translation

August 15, 2018

The West Balkan Partnership Conference – Bar 2014

WBP - Bar 2014 01It is becoming a tradition for the Bible Societies of the West Balkan Partnership to organize a conference each year bringing together church leaders from different denominations and different countries, to discuss important issues regarding the Bible’s use in different traditions and the witness to our Muslim neighbors. This year the conference was held in the city of Bar, in Montenegro from 3 – 5 of June. A group of nearly 50 church leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and the representatives from the UK and other BSs, participated in a conference concentrated on the Bible’s use among different traditions and the understanding of the Muslims regarding the Bible and Quran.
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The conference started with prayer and devotions, followed by a presentation of UBS and the West Balkan Partnership work that has been done in each of the five countries. These presentations were followed by Mr Milkov’s research on the region of the West Balkans regarding the church situation. On the first day we had three keynote speakers sharing about the understanding and usage of the Bible in their Church context. Archdeacon Radomir Rakić from Serbia spoke about the role of the Bible in the Orthodox tradition. He emphasized the important role of liturgy in shaping the way a believer approaches the scripture. Father Marijan Peklaj from Slovenia spoke about the tradition and modern aspects of reading the Bible in the Catholic Church. He gave a survey of recent Papal teaching on engaging with the scripture, emphasizing the role of a community. Revd Zefjan Nikolla from Albania shared about how the Protestants look at the Scriptures as their final authority. At the end of their inspiring speeches there was a panel discussion where the audience asked questions and made comments on a variety of topics ranging from the relationship between church tradition and scripture to church councils and current needs within local churches. This created a wonderful atmosphere of fellowship and good understanding with each other.
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The second day was dedicated to the topic of the Bible and Quran. Mr Chawkat Moucary, a Syrian native living in the UK and working for World Vision, was the main speaker that gave three main presentations: The Bible and the Quran; Islam and the impact in Politics; Islam & Muslims: Conversion, Dialogue, Cooperation. He endeavored to help the audience learn more about the mentality and culture of Islam, in order to help everyone better understand the Muslim view toward Christianity and vice versa. There were many questions raised from the participants toward Mr Chawk at regarding the current situation of the Church in the Islamic countries and the way to operate in an environment that is full of misunderstanding and hatred between the populations because of religion. On the third day of the conference we had a presentation of H+, a Bible Study material which could become a very good tool for church leaders and Bible Study groups, by helping different audiences in how they read the Bible. Some of our countries live in quite a strong Muslim environment which affects the way people read the Bible, so one of the most important things that our BSs need to tackle is the way people read and study the Bible.
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The whole conference was a perfect setting for good fellowship between leaders from different countries and different denominations, giving the message that through Christ and his message given in the Bible we all share the same faith and brotherhood which can help us better understand each other and work together to improve our ministries. It was very encouraging to see how during the informal part of the conference the participants would gather and share experiences, build new relationships and brainstorm about new ideas of cooperation in the future among different church traditions looking at our Bible Societies as their key partner. “The conference has been very encouraging. The Bible Societies have become a meeting point for the Churches in a platform that nobody has done before in our countries. ” said Nathan Hoppe from the Orthodox Church of Albania. Archdeacon Radomir Rakić said; “We enjoyed very much being together in the conference. Everything went smoothly thanks to your excellent organization. Every one of us will remember those days we spent together. ”
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“I was impressed with the organization, the discussed themes and the groups of supporters with whom you have come. It was an inspirational event and the good atmosphere contributed also for a real fellowship. ” said another participant We hope this conference will continue to be held each year as a good tradition for the WBP, as it is helping enormously in strengthening the relationship with the churches as well as the international network of our church partners.