TRIUMPH OVER EVIL
by Pat Pope
The new millennium marked my third time to accompany
the Work Camp of St. David's Relief Foundation
to Bosnia. For the past two years, Mr. Jeff Reed,
Executive Director of St. David's, led groups
of Americans to the northeastern corner of Bosnia
within a stone's throw of Serbia
to an area of rich farmlands, rolling hills and
the warm, hospitable people of the tiny village
This year, Jeff took us to a village in an area
of Bosnia that could rival any in Europe, or any
other continent for that matter, for its enchanting
beauty. The name of this village is Guca Gora.
Each morning as we gathered at various work sites,
we walked past an 800-year-old Franciscan monastery
and church. The St. Francis Monastery is located
at such a vantagepoint as to be able to be seen
from any of the surrounding mountains. This range
of mountains runs all the way to Sarajevo and
beyond, and hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. (That
Olympics represented my first recollection of
what was then called Yugoslavia.) The monastery
is squarely perched to overlook a deep valley
where each morning the mist of the night is held
captive until the hot sun releases it to the sky,
only for it to return in the afternoon as refreshing
Just above the church is a small, fertile plateau.
One magical afternoon, some of us were privileged
to watch the harvest of a farmer's hay. What made
this ordinary task extraordinary was that here,
in this most modern of times, we watched the contrast
as one man cut hay with a hand-held sickle while
another used a pitchfork to hoist the yield onto
a wagon being routinely drawn by two noble steeds.
The grace to which this timeless motion unfolded
was almost overwhelming.
Surrounded by all this bucolic splendor, I none-the-less
sensed a feeling of foreboding that was pervasive,
inexplicable. That is, until early one morning
when a slight mishap quickened my senses as a
man from an opposing village caused me to have
to seek refuge in the bushes to avoid being hit
by his car. It was at this moment that I realized
what I was responding to the lack of resolution.
The tension in this almost indescribably beautiful
region of the world is so thick that it casts
shrouds of darkness.
Why are the looks between neighbors so suspicious,
the caution so evident, the school segregated,
and the threat of renewed fighting in the back
of everyone's minds? The answer is not simply
because there had been a war here. The people
of Guca Gora and surrounding villages had been
embroiled in the worst of all wars CIVIL
For multi-faceted and complicated reasons, the
initial war efforts launched by united Muslim
and Christian forces against the Serbs stalemated.
Then, extremist Muslim groups infiltrated the
Bosnian Muslim camps turning neighbor against
neighbor. The bloodbath began. Being sorely outnumbered,
the Christian population of the Guca Gora region
took the brunt of the carnage. The stories of
atrocities are so gruesome that I remain unsettled;
not only by what was told but also by vivid pictorial
accounts of what actually happened.
What is potentially most disturbing about this
human tragedy is the fear that, with each passing
year, the memory of those who have contributed
so much to St. David's will grow dim. The heroic
deeds of the courageous people of Bosnia will
be forgotten. How very great the need for assistance
The situation is as prophetic as the quote, "all
that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for
good men to do nothing". This will be a chilling
reality if interest wanes and contributions subside.
St. David's Relief Foundation has accomplished
what governments and heavyweight (and heavily
staffed) traditional relief organizations cannot.
For the most part, container shipments are sent
from the U.S. to Split and then sent to a warehouse
in Medugorje. It is the Franciscans who decide
where the relief supplies are to be distributed.
Rest assured every nail, every shingle, every
jar of baby food is accounted for. Therefore,
contributions are direct, intermediaries are virtually
non-existent, and the fruits of our generosity
are visibly evident.
I wish (and hope) more Americans will come to
see and feel Bosnia. The absence of resolve in
this land could be overcome if more of the everyday
people of our big-hearted country would come and
experience first hand an inkling of what these
courageous people have been through.
While to see the aftermath of the horrors of war
is devastating, to see the resilience of the human
spirit of the local people and to witness those
volunteers from distant lands who hear and respond
to the call of their fellow man makes it impossible
to ignore God's loving presence in Bosnia (and
By the way, what are you doing next summer?