’Tomorrow we will travel on to Serbia’, I said in my innocence, when during our Balkans trip we visited Kosovo. There is an enthusiastic CHE team at work there; in one of their villages they got to use a building next to a school. There they sell snacks during the lesson breaks, and in that way they get in immediate contact with the youngsters and through them with the parents.

The majority of the population of Kosovo is muslim; that is a remnant of the Turkish rule in that part of Europe. It ’s a very loose type of islam though: they don’t eat pork and don’t drink alcohol, that ’s about it. Whether there is a mosque at all in the village, they don’t know, let alone that they would ever have seen it from the inside.

Serbia on the other hand is mostly orthodox: Greek-orthodox, Russian orthodox, Eastern orthodox. Behold, the ideal recipe for tension and conflict, as can be seen almost every day in the news nowadays.

When during our visit to Kosovo I mentioned to one of the youngsters that the other day we were going to travel to Serbia, he answered: ‘Can I go with you? Then I ‘ll take a gun with me and shoot all those dirty Serbians!’ He was around 14 or 15 years old; the war between Serbia and Kosovo about independence was more than 25 years ago. He wasn’t even born then yet, but apparently still inherited the hatred and vengefulness from his parents.

This one little sentence made me realize oa few things. First of all, that you need to be very careful with what you say at which place. Secondly, what a huge powder peg of ethnological, religious and social tensions and unresolved trauma’s the Balkans are. And lastly, vengefulness is a core value of islam; as long as people are bound under that power – even if it ’s only in name, or a loose version – there will be no reconciliation. That can only happen if the Gospel of Jesus Christ breaks through in the hearts of people and they learn what forgiveness actually means. Some touching examples of that can be seen in for example African countries, where also atrocities have taken place between people groups, but where the power of the gospel has made room for healing and reconciliation. It is great to see how the CHE workers from all over Eastern Europe and the Balkans are giving the example in this by cooperating: Jesus is able to bring unity, reconciliation and wholeness: Shalom!