Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad


Join me as I travel to Bosnia – and please add your thoughts.  I’m only there from Sunday 4th October until Sunday 11th October, so you’ll need to be quick.  And I’ve only told a handful of people about this blog, so please keep me company – it will help me stay connected (I tend to go native).

I’m travelling with the Christian-Muslim Forum from the UK and we’re meeting up with a multifaith group in Bosnia-Hercegovina for the Zajedno u Bosni! conference.  We’ll be visiting Sarajevo, Srebenica & Tuzla.  This is what we’ll be doing –

The main purpose of this conference is to discuss and explore, on the basis of experience in both countries, how faith communities can help to sustain civil society and promote social cohesion.  We intend, through this conference and our report of it, to be able to offer practical help to leaders of local faith communities in both countries.

The conference has been organised by SANA, a British Bosnian, Muslim Christian development agency which has been working in Bosnia since 1994.

The postal strike has meant my copy of Noel Malcolm’s Bosnia: A Short History only arrived today so I’m hoping for some unavoidable delays en route to catch up.  I found, eventually, a couple of guide books at Waterstone’s, but I’m thirsty for a bit more on the complex history.  As ever, the more I find out, the more ignorant I realise I am.

What an opportunity to spend proper time not only with interested people from the UK but with Bosnian people involved in local multifaith activities – a real treat.

18 comments on “Welcome!

  1. Darlena David
    31 October 2009

    Dear Catriona,
    Great to see all the wonderful work.
    Darlena (user of your old kerosene stove…Delhi@1985?

  2. KIrsten Stalker
    5 October 2009

    Thanks for your informative accounts of events so far. Today i was in St Giles Cathedral so thinking about your father and your wedding! It was a memorial service for a friend’s father. A small but striking ecumenical element- prayers from Archbishop Mario Conti in John Knox’s bastion!

    Look forward to reading more of your trip
    shrimp xx

    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      Motel internet has started working! Pretty late at night and we have an early start tomorrow and there is no full stop on the keyboard!

      Good to think of you at St Giles today – huge dark place, happy memories Remember cooking all those kidney beans in your flat the day before? Found the heavily disguised full stop. We haven”t seen any weddings here – we kept coming across them in Sicily. The cobbles in parts of Sarajevo remind me of Edinburgh.

      It is a real mix of ultra-familiar (cafes, western dress) and very unfamiliar (the sound of the language, written in different ways, including cyrillic, but spoken almost the same, a bit like Urdu and Hindi, the sound of amplified call to prayer from the mosques, Turkish coffee everywhere) and then sometimes the worlds co-incide- There was a shooting today, which is not so uncommon in London. It is so good to get your messages – thank you.

  3. siriol
    5 October 2009

    Hi Catriona
    looking forward to reading your blogs, I am really interested to hear what your impressions of Bosnia are, and in a rainy week in London what better diversion could there be? siriol x

    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      Well it”s clear blue skies (well pitch black right now) here, warm in the day and a bit of a chill at night, but lots of stars. We came back to the motel along a side road tonight with a view looking down into Sarajevo – twinkling lights and houses scattered up the mountainsides. We are being very well looked after by our hosts – a bit of a whirlwind to start with and I could spend many more days in Sarajevo. I am learning as much from the rest of the UK group about what they are doing in Blackburn, Nottingham, Bradford, etc – I obviously must get out of London more! Keep in touch.

  4. Sue Douglas
    5 October 2009

    Hi Catriona,
    Hope you have arrived safely. I am sending you the email address of my friend Inka Omanovic-Day – she is Bosnian and is married to one of my neighbours who worked for the UN in Bosnia. I am sure she would be of help to you if you need information.


    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      Thank you! The three-way split here makes me immediately think, What kind of Bosnian – Bosniak, Croat or Serb? which is not how I normally think. But some great moments – I have some ipod Balkan music and the folk trio in the motel played one of “my” songs this evening! Many thanks for keeping in touch

  5. Michael McNish
    5 October 2009


    Do hope you have a rewarding trip to the Balkans. Am immediately reminded about Donald Reeves “Soul of Europe” project, which you may have read about.

    Best wishes


    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      I must ask about Donald Reeves and his work here – I had completely forgotten and thank you for reminding me. There are at least three (senior) Anglicans on our team and I”m sure they must know. The defence man at the Embassy today wore gold braid. Very helpful and I hope something practical will result from our time here. Your girls would love Sarajevo I think, history, culture and fashion. Do please keep in touch.

  6. Tricia Ninian
    5 October 2009

    Hi Catriona

    Good move to get out of London this week – it’s the wettest rainy Monday – the sort of rain that can revive those pots still full of the plants left to die naturally at the end of the season and now you have the moral dilemma next weekend when you planned to rip them all out and plant the bulbs good and early this year!!

    Good for the late harvest too. Which brings me onto matters vocal. Alastair has joined the Northcote Lodge school choir and makes his debut at the Harvest Festival tomorrow. I have to admit he’s still a pretty reluctant recruit but I’m sure he’ll be converted quickly. I have my debut at Morley College on Wednesday on the Opera Performance Course. First casting is Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute – pretty scary stuff. So if the going gets tough for you this week, think of me hitting my top F’s and if I think my coloratura runs are lacking a bit of puff I’ll think of you going native.

    Just saw Jheni Arboine at school drop off – not sure if she was trying to recruit me as a speaker for the WI or just as a regular punter. Anyhow I have to hold on both for the current time – too many plates spinning. But how about booking a slot for you to tell us all of your trip?

    much love and thanks for bringing me in on this Tricia xx

    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      A real blast of Clapham – thank you so much! Queen of the Night, eh? Go for it! Which reminds me to ask about music here- We have heard plenty of live (lovely) and piped folk music, but I wonder where sacred music comes in and the orchestral side of things. There must have been a strong tradition here before the war for the siege to produce the cellist of Sarajevo, etc. Would love to bring my slides to the WI! What a great idea, although you are a hard act to follow . . . Hoping to post some of my photos when internet access improves.

  7. Catherine Winchester
    4 October 2009

    Hi Catriona, what a wonderful opportunity and a privilege to make a trip like this and (I imagine) get behind the scenes and listen and ask questions. Why not go native? It’s only a week…most of us couldn’t begin to try. Blogging is such a brilliant medium. I do one with my bookgroup friends using “Blogger” which makes it easy to restrict access. The pictures are the best part, so Bill and I will look forward to seeing yours! Lots of love, Catherine

    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      And I haven”t been able to link up my phone camera to a computer yet! The clear weather has been great for colours. I even took a picture of a wonderful dish we had today, served on a plate but within tin foil, a kind of spicy stew with a huge blob of creme fraiche or cultured cream on one side. Is that anything like Hungarian goulash? Musn”t get too hung up on the food, but the mix is interesting. Soups are de rigeur, too. Do keep in touch.

  8. Kati
    4 October 2009

    good for you. I wish I’d picked your brains earlier as I am trying to pitch ideas for Radio 4 about intergrated religious education in Bosnia. But maybe when you get back… have a great time. thats fantastic work you are involved in

    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      And that”s one of the topics which came up today – it would make an excellent programme. As I understand it, RE is rather like our UK RE teaching and sticks to information about religious belief and practice. The religious leaders we met today favoured “confessional” teaching by members of faith communities to their own communities. There is also something about separate curricula which I need to find out more about. You may be able to do something which contrasts the debate in the UK over faith schools, RE teaching and “ethos” with what is developing here. We will be visiting schools, so will keep that in mind – thanks for being in touch

  9. KIrsten Stalker
    4 October 2009

    Hope you have a wonderful and inspiring trip Catriona, although parts of it will be distressing i’m sure. I never stop admiring you! I’ll order that book on Bosnia so i am better informed.

    Thanks for Bill’s doodle book – he was very chuffed!

    Much love, shrimp xx

  10. Alan Gadd
    3 October 2009

    Every good wish for your travels tomorrow, Catriona, and for your week in Bosnia. Some of us will be watching this space with great interest.

    • multifaith
      5 October 2009

      Thank you so much for the first contribution Alan. My head is buzzing with the first 36 hours and already what felt strange now feels more normal. The motel reception is shutting down for the night, but hope to pick up again tomorrow evening from Tusla. A couple of people who are as careful as you when planning things have organised a wonderful week for us. Please keep in touch.

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