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The Week of Tolerance and Reconciliation continues with the launch of a publication titled “The Destruction of Islamic Heritage in the Kosovo War, 1998-1999”

Prishtina, 27 May 2014 - A publication titled “The Destruction of Islamic Heritage in the Kosovo War 1998-1999” was launched today in Prishtina. The purpose of this photographic documentation of the destruction wrought upon Islamic cultural heritage in Kosovo is to document the past so that it serves the reconciliation process between different faiths.

The publication is authored by Sabri Bajgora, the Grand Imam of Kosovo, and edited by Robert Elsie, an important voice in the study of Albanian history and culture, and Petrit Selimi, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Kosovo. The publication features additional photographs and an introduction by Andras Riedlmayer from the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo and international donors involved through the Interfaith Kosovo initiative have supported this publication.

The publication opens with a message of reconciliation by the Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi:

“A healing process cannot be achieved by forgetting or denying. Forgiving can never be meaningful if it is founded on forgetting. This is particularly true of a nation’s cultural and religious heritage. Even when the physical manifestations of this heritage have been destroyed, people must not forget what they once had.”

During today’s launch event, Kosovo Grand Imam and the author of this publication, Sabri Bajgora said:

 “Our willingness to live together in peace, supported by government interfaith initiatives, have contributed to re-establish tolerance we as Kosovars have always been known for. Therefore, I want to emphasize that it is not our intention to revive old hostilities. What we intend is to leave to the next generation a detailed record of what happened, with the objective to never have to face it again.”

“The destruction of precious heritage sites was not only a loss for Kosovo, but for the entire world. It is sufficient to mention the burning of the Central Archives of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, which led to the destruction of over six-century old religious scripts, documents, and manuscripts with priceless value. In order to prevent the repetition of the past, we should never forget. A prosperous future lies before the people of Kosovo who should find courage to move ahead on their European Union integration path.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi who served as co-editor for this publication said:

“Remembering the past is crucial in the reconstruction and reconciliation process of any society. Documented evidence provided in this publication should educate both domestic communities and global audiences about the destruction of cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo. The destruction of religious heritage has been an emotional issue across our communities. This new publication highlights importance we place on preserving sites of both architectural and cultural value.”

Robert Elsie, a co-editor along with Deputy Foreign Minister Selimi, said:

“The project got underway two years ago, in the spring of 2012, when Petrit Selimi contacted me and asked me if I would help prepare an album to catalogue the horrific damage done to Islamic cultural monuments during the Kosovo War of 1998-1999.”

“I accepted the work because I felt that there was still much need to make the international public aware of Kosovo and the many problems it has inherited from the sombre past.”

“While the people of Kosovo know what happened to their country in 1998 and 1999, the destruction wrought upon Islamic architecture and heritage has remained largely obscure on the international scene.”

The Book Launch of “The Destruction of Islamic Heritage in the Kosovo War 1998-1999” was held as part of this year’s Week of Tolerance and Reconciliation, providing a platform for domestic communities and global audiences to reflect on the state of faith relations. The second annual Week of Tolerance and Reconciliation opened with the second international conference on interfaith dialogue on May 23 in Prizren and it will conclude on May 29 with a public lecture by H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the concept of Love based on the Holy Quran. The Week of Tolerance and Reconciliation is organized by Interfaith Kosovo, which is a civil-society fueled initiative supported by Kosovo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.