Rose Marie Berger 03-24-2016

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, his wife and bodyguard attend church services in Pale, Bosnia in 1993. Northfoto /

As I watched the presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon read the verdict — for a full 58 minutes — it all came back to me. In 1996 and in 1999, I traveled in and out of the war zones in Bosnia. The hand-dug graves in the soccer field. The reports of Muslim massacres; of whole villages forced into a school gym and burned alive; the small hotel where we stayed that was also housing skeletal refugees recently released from a Serb concentration camp; the dogs with blown-off paws; the underground bakery distributing bread at the risk of their lives. And most of all “Sniper Alley” in downtown Sarajevo and the Serb soldier who showed me his sniper nest on Serb-held Mt. Jajolina and pointed his rifle at the place where I was staying.

Photo via Brian Pellot / RNS

A banner advertising the pope’s visit to Bosnia hangs in Sarajevo as people pass below. Photo via Brian Pellot / RNS

Pope Francis has promised to be a “messenger of peace” during his day trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 6, but despite excitement in the country there are doubts the visit will have a lasting impact.

When the pope touches down in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital, Sarajevo, it will have been nearly two decades since a bloody three-year conflict came to an end.

Angela Denker 12-19-2014
Church steeple at sunset. Image courtesy Nancy Bauer/

Church steeple at sunset. Image courtesy Nancy Bauer/

You may have never attended an "average" church, but you've certainly seen one. Older buildings, often made of dark brick, old-fashioned roofs that slope down from the center — possibly a bell tower and a steeple. St. Stephen's. Redeemer. Hope. Resurrection. St. Thomas. St. Vincent. Beautiful Savior. The names recall an age gone by — not just the 1950s, when neighborhoods walked together to Sunday morning worship, but also an age 2,000 years ago, when the world was changed by the witness of Stephen the martyr, and Jesus' resurrection from death on a cross in Jerusalem brought freedom and life to a world hungry for God's love and redemption.

If you've never been in an "average" church, or even if you have, long ago, you may wonder what it's still there for. The median American church has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday morning. More than half of American congregations worship between 7-99 people each Sunday. They are strikingly homogeneous. In 2010, just 13.7 percent of congregations reported being "multiracial." Thirty percent of congregations still didn't have a website in 2010.

Reading these statistics, it may seem easy to despair — to drive by one church and then another, to attend worship there on Christmas Eve and wonder why you bothered.

Lynne Hybels 01-07-2013

Wherever I go in the world, I want to be quick to listen to differing perspectives and slow to pick sides.

Rose Marie Berger 11-01-2004
Swanee Hunt,

Swanee Hunt, founder of Women Waging Peace, spoke with Sojourners’ Rose Marie Berger about her book This Was Not Our War and the ways women are engaged in peace processes in conflict-ridden countries.

Sojourners: What got you involved in Bosnia?

Rose Marie Berger 07-01-2001

Is rape a war crime, or 'collateral damage'?

Michael McClanen 11-01-1999
Bosnian women weave ethnic harmony
Rose Marie Berger 11-01-1999

The war in Kosovo is over. The question now: How to build peace? Their neighbors in Bosnia might just have the beginnings of an answer.

Lucy Fuchs 11-01-1998
Letters and loans help survivors of genocide rebuild their lives.
Rose Marie Berger 11-01-1996

It's 4:20 p.m. I'm standing over the Olympic soccer stadium in Sarajevo. From one goal post to the other are graves-headstones of various sizes and shapes, most unmarked.

Rose Marie Berger 09-01-1996
No easy road to Bosnian peace.
Jim Rice 01-01-1996
Mixed motives and good fruit.
Jim Forest 11-01-1995

No matter what religious tradition one is part of, the grim cycle of violence and counterviolence that has gone on for more than three years in the former Yugoslavia indicts us all...

Joe Nangle 12-01-1994

Three American soldiers committed suicide in the first few months after U.S. forces arrived in Haiti in September 1994.

Jim Douglass 05-01-1994

Jim Douglass traveled to Bosnia to continue his work of building support for a peace pilgrimage of world religious leaders to Sarajevo.