It’s my 20th year living and working in the former Yugoslavia. I also lived here earlier, right after President Tito died in 1980. His pictures were still hanging everywhere, and though the country was going through a challenging economic crisis, it seemed like nobody questioned Yugoslav unity. Having lived here both “before” and “after,” it’s still a puzzle how a succession of particularly brutal and bloody civil wars eventually led to the formation of seven different countries.

But I’ve found out that many of the people who lived through it also have a hard time making sense of it. It’s as if they lived through a bad dream, a nightmare of hatred and pain.

I’ve often heard comments along the lines of “We can’t figure out what happened and how we could find ourselves the worst enemies with people who were our neighbors or even relatives.”

Thankfully, although not everyone has forgiven and forgotten, I believe they would think twice or more before getting into another war. They paid the price, and in many ways, are still paying it.

Over the years, Per un Mondo Migliore has helped to build bridges of reconciliation, and through this process, I was also helped. I have been privileged to have a peek into the complex matter of war versus peace.

I saw the insanity of war and the hurt and scars it leaves for decades.

I touched the pain of division.

I was convinced once more of the necessity and beauty of unity: what a priceless thing it is, how much power it gives, and what a sad state we fall into when we don’t appreciate it and eventually lose it.

I learned how small things, if not addressed, can become big issues.

I realized the danger of getting too familiar with our blessings, the good things we have, taking them for granted, and eventually being too willing to trade them for some fake promise.

I witnessed the healing forgiveness can bring and the importance of faith and trust versus despair.

I was amazed at the courage, bravery, and unselfishness some people can show in extreme circumstances.

I was reminded of the quote attributed to Mother Teresa: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” If there is no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.