The Visit to the Franciscan Institute of the Culture of Peace in Split, Croatia

As part of the visit to the OFM South-Slavic Conference, Br. Michael Perry, Minister General, with the other members of the General Definitory, visited the Franciscan Institute of the Culture of Peace in Split, Croatia on June 19, 2017. In a presentation given by Mrs. Mirjana Maras, one of the employees, they were informed that the Institute was founded by the Council of the Franciscan Family in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996; its framework encompasses the issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation; its mission is to promote and work for the values of forgiveness, reconciliation, social justice, dignity of woman, religious dialogue, and safeguarding of creation. This is done by educational programs, workshops, conferences, social advocacy – in collaboration with other institutions and organizations.

The work of the Institute was illustrated by some projects:

  1. A campaign for work-free Sunday in which a petition with over 300.000 signatures was handed in to the Prime minister of Croatia which generated passing a new regulation regarding work on Sundays. The Institute is in the process of founding Croatian Sunday Alliance to become a member of the European Sunday Alliance.
  2. Inspired by the brochure Water for Life issued by the Franciscan JPIC Office in Rome, the Institute has made a research on the bad effects and threats of water privatization, published a study book and launched an initiative to not allow it in Croatia. The initiative has had a significant impact on the public awareness as well as on the new water legislation.
  3. ECO-MAP is an interactive application developed by the Institute to help raise awareness and involvement of citizens in the active protection of the environment. The application has been adopted by the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Croatia to be administered and supervised. The same is expected from the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be followed by a permanent active collaboration between the two states.

After the presentation, the General Minister and the General Definitors expressed a sincere interest in the work of the Institute and inquired about its influence and impact on the Friars. They also asked about the current situation after the war in the 1990’s in that part of the world and if the Institute has adjusted its strategies. The director of the Institute, Ante Vučković, OFM, and his assistant, Bože Vuleta, OFM, in reply stated that the involvement of the friars had not been an expected one and therefore the Institute had been working much more with lay people, students and other organizations. Its membership with the EU helped stabilize the political situation in Croatia, whereas in Bosnia the conflict has not been resolved, and the presence of the Islamic extremists, especially those who had fought in Syria, has made the political situation even more complex and fragile.  Although the Institute in its first fifteen years had an emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation, it has now shifted to the issues of social justice.

On behalf of all, the Minister General expressed his gratitude and encouragement to all who have been involved in the work for justice, peace and integrity of creation within the Franciscan Institute of the Culture of Peace.