main header picture

LCC International University > News and Events archive > Peace cannot exist without justice: A visit with an Erasmus Scholar

Peace cannot exist without justice: A visit with an Erasmus Scholar

2024-03-21

The Center for Dialogue and Conflict Transformation at LCC International University recently had the honor of hosting peace facilitator Dr. Julijana Mladenovska-Tešija, who is Croatian, but also a native Macedonian with degrees in philosophy and religious studies; she speaks from both academic and personal experience of living and working in a conflict-affected communities. As the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and a lecturer at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia, she offered open lectures for our students as an Erasmus visiting scholar on March 4th and 5th. She presented and participated in the Peace Conference: “Living with Fragile Identities.” Julijana graced our LCC campus by facilitating open lectures on the themes of “Grassroots peacebuilding in Croatia: Healing memories and lives” and “Religion’s role in (post) conflict restoration: the case of Croatia Post Yugoslavia.” Students and staff from multiple disciplines enjoyed her lively storytelling and critical analysis.

In her first open lecture, she provided insights on the disintegration of former Yugoslavia and how new states with confusing identities were formed. It was helpful to hear how the historical backgrounds of each current state influenced the present and how new identities were formed within three different religious and political institutions. She shared the stories of a bloody and cruel Yugoslavian war and its events and remarked on how her “language is not sweet” which she hears how many describe it, yet language is a part of her identity from a land where there is no “clean” territory and a country with its variety of multiple ethnicities. Out of her life experienced stories she described how in current times there remains a big division between Balkan states leading to a continued struggle for reconciliation at the grassroots. She left us with ideas and questions to continue grappling with regarding how countries might heal from violence and war. It was interesting to hear her raise the question of “When is a Peacemaker a peacemaker, and when is a peacemaker considered a traitor?” She challenged us with her comment about the ‘other’ and that we “might not like them, but do not throw rocks at them”.

In her second open lecture Julijana spoke about religion’s role in post-conflict restoration and how for her, the way in which Jesus impacted her life; giving us critical insights of how civil societies and religious institutions were identity-shapers in the Balkan states. Her interest in peacemaking comes with a desire to avoid the repetition of another Yugoslavian war in these countries. For, in her opinion, justice and peace are intertwined. Moreover, she offered a perspective on why humans are prone to violence and how history plays a role. For instance, she critiqued the idea of how states decided for their citizens what to remember and what not to remember from historical events, which leads to collusion and conflict between other states. As a result, out of her peacebuilding experience, she states that “our identities are the most fragile when it comes to history as our histories and languages are shared through other nations,” creating the most conflicts.

Weaving her thoughts through stories of front-line peacebuilders she tackled ideas on why humans are prone to violence and what might perpetuate the story of violence. This is a thought-provoking idea to remember when we think about the narratives we resort to and the realities peace work entails. Especially, from Juliana’s perspective, as she sees it as a work in the process of building bridges and quietly nurturing small steps and spaces that help fragile societies build new narratives that heal. In the end, this Erasmus scholar left us with the challenge and reminder that we are all a part of civil society and its identity, and with that, we all have a part in what it can become.

Author: Dominykas Norkus, intern at the Center for Dialogue and Conflict, LCC International University.

Return to previous page