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The Cellist Of Sarajevo

The Cellist Of Sarajevo
The Cellist Of Sarajevo

You do not have to be rich or famous or even an adult to make a difference in the world. You do not need to have special training or be the ruler of a country. Many people who feel passionately about injustice in the world speak up about it. Speaking up can take many forms because different people have different ways of expressing themselves.

Here is one example:

In 1992, the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina was involved in a civil war. In a civil war, different groups within a country fight against each other for control. War always affects not just soldiers but everyday people, too. This war was no different. One day, at 10 a.m., a bomb exploded in the city of Sarajevo and killed 22 everyday people who were waiting in line to buy bread.

Near the bakery lived someone who had bought their bread at that bakery. They were terribly distraught at the violent acts being committed in their hometown and decided to speak up. The day after the bombing, they entered the square where the bomb had exploded, sat down, and began to play the cello. You see, this person was a cellist with the opera orchestra in Sarajevo. Music held a special place for them. And it was through their music that that they chose to speak to anyone who would listen about what had happened in the bakery line.

For the next 22 days — one day for each person who had died — the cellist came to the square and played the same piece of music. They called this music "a daily musical prayer for peace."

When they spoke up with their cello, people listened. One person who heard was Beliz Brother, a performance artist in Seattle, Washington, in the United States. She arranged for a performance of 22 cellists to play at 22 different public places for 22 days. This performance echoed the musical prayer from Sarajevo and was Ms. Brother's way of speaking up.

Both of these acts came to the attention of a young boy in Indiana. He started a campaign to let other people know about the cellists’ performances. The boy thought it was important for people to know that none of us who call for peace and reconciliation are truly alone. Perhaps he also wanted the cellist, Ms. Brother, and others to know they, too, had been heard.

The boy, Jason Crowe, wrote about these acts of inspiration in a newspaper that he published called "The Informer." He also started a fund-raising project called The Cello Cries On, to raise money to build a statue for the city of Sarajevo, to be placed on the site of the bakery. It is called the Children's International Peace and Harmony Statue. The statue would not only honor those who had died, it would also remind everyone of the high price too many people pay in war. 

Jason Crowe hoped to inspire more people to work harder for peace. Perhaps if everyone thought of how war harms children, they would strive for peace. Maybe children just like you will see the statue. Perhaps your generation will listen to all those speaking up for peace, and war will become a thing of the past.

Should people never disagree, or argue? That’s not what most people mean when we talk about working for peace. We hope we will someday have a world where people settle their differences not with violence, but by peaceful negotiations.

Someone, in a terrible act of violence, took the lives of 22 people in Sarajevo. No one remembers this person's name. But the people who reacted to that violence — not with more violence, but in a universal call for peace and reconciliation — we do remember. We honor them by passing on their story. When you tell their story, you are speaking up for peace, too.

About the Author

  • Jessica York is Co-director of Ministries and Faith Development and the Director of the Faith Development office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she previously served the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham as director of...

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