A few years ago I stood on the Stari Most, pictured above, in Mostar, just before its formal reopening, writes Lord Hylton. Recently, I saw photographs of the newly rebuilt and restored Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka, northwest Bosnia. This work of the well-known architect, Sinan (or his pupils), was completed in 1579 CE. It was destroyed by explosives in May 1993, at a bad moment in the Bosnian war.
I would like to join in offering thanks to all those who helped to achieve the reconstruction of these two outstanding features of Bosnia. I pay special tribute to the Prince of Wales and to the small British charity, the Soul of Europe, of which I am a patron, and its founder the Rev Donald Reeves, without whom the Ferhadija would probably still be a bare site.
These two splendid monuments, the bridge and the mosque, have risen like phoenixes from dusty rubble. They show what goodwill and hard work can accomplish. Bosnia, alas, remains a deeply divided society. In this respect it reminds me of Northern Ireland. Let us take heart, however, from the rebuilding of magnificent stone-work, even if it may take longer to heal the scars and wounded memories of human hearts.
In the words of Reeves, the Ferhadija reconstruction project should be promoted as ‘a sign that the 15 million Muslims in Europe are truly part of the European family.’ Particularly since the events in Paris of November last year, there is an urgent need for practical bridge building examples of cooperation between Islam and Christianity of which the Ferhadija Project is a striking example.