Rediscovering our brotherhood in Christ in general is a difficult process for all humanity. However, to do so in the context of the West Balkans region has been almost always considered a mission impossible. When we mention the West Balkans, sometimes, the first things that come to our minds are the historical ethnical and religious conflicts which have strongly affected this region. To envisage an environment of peace, love and genuine brotherhood is considered by many an utopia.
Despite all odds, the West Balkan Partnership (WBP) of the Bible Societies (BS) of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania have brought a new perspective and a new reality in the relationships among the Christian communities of the region. During the last six years they have been putting a lot of efforts to organise different events to bring people together in an interconfessional and international platform. This year, for the first time, the WBP organised a Bible Summer Camp with the main theme rediscovering our brotherhood in Christ with participants from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria.
The Bible Camp was organised in the Orthodox monastery of Soko Grad in the eastern part of Serbia, near the border between Serbia and Bosnia where some years ago, the war was more devastated than in many other parts of the Ex Yugoslavia. The monastery is situated in the middle of the forest, guarded by a giant cross at the top of the mountain, providing a wonderful place for a Bible Camp where people can enjoy the beauty, the pace and the relaxation of nature.
Each day the program started with the prayer and worship lead by Teo Avramov, a young student from Bulgaria sent by the Taize community to help the organisers to bring that kind of spirituality that would be well accepted by all the church traditions represented in the Camp. “For me it was absolutely wonderful to see that here there are people from almost every branch of Christianity from almost all nations of the Balkans, genuinely here just to be together and not to follow a certain agenda.” – says Mr. Avramov about the gathering.
The day would continue further more with the teachings of father Marian Paloka, an Albanian priest from Florence in Italy, who would teach about how to rediscover our father and our brotherhood in Christ, giving a fresh perspective of the Gospel according to Jesus. The topics shared by father Marian, would be further explored in smaller discussion groups.
In the afternoon the group would socialise through hiking, football, volleyball and rafting in the river Drina. Closing the day again with the Taize prayer and worship, and in the last evening also with some small groups presentations and a celebration singing and dancing with different national songs of the people represented in the Bible Camp.
Boštian Hari, a student from Slovenia said: “I am really impressed to be here because I can see that all three confessions are living here as one. I really feel like I am in one brotherhood.”
One of the small group leaders and one of the keynote speakers of other WBP events, Father Miroslav Jovanović from the city of Lescovac in the south of Serbia said: “We have created a great friendship between Serbian, Slovenian, Croatian, Albanian and Macedonian people, which is a great experience and a great inspiration for all of us.”
This initiative is one of the few things happening in the West Balkans really connecting people from different countries and Church traditions as a result of a genuine Christian spirit of unity around the Holy Scripture.
The WBP hopes to turn this Bible Camp in a yearly tradition for people of this region.
Here is a link to a video related to the Bible Summer School:
The Bible Summer School – WBP 2017
Here is a link to a video with some of the teachings of father Marian Paloka: