• Özlem Özkan

Destroy or Build?


Destroying is easy. Building a bridge and building a culture takes courage, perseverance, and perhaps most importantly a purpose.

I want to take a moment and reflect on the Stari Most, also known as the Mostar Bridge. How did Stari Most 'build' culture and embrace differences in ethnicity and religion?

Mostar was named after the bridge keepers who guarded the Stari Most in medieval times. While the original Stari Most was a wooden one, in the 16th century it was replaced with a stone bridge by Mimar Hayruddin, a student of Mimar Sinan.

The Stari Most is the symbol of hope and reconciliation for a better future. East of the city used to be occupied with the Bosnian Muslim community. In the West lived Croats and Serbs.

But this was only a physical separation: in Mostar, there was a great tolerance between neighbors, and the mix of cultures and religions was natural. Every week many mixed marriages were celebrated. The Mostar Bridge served as a link between all these communities, and people, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, would not have destroyed the physical and emotional connection that defined the city.

A bridge is a symbol for communication and connection. It’s necessary to provide passage over something and take you somewhere else. When you cross a bridge you take yourself somewhere else, sometimes somewhere familiar and sometimes somewhere new.

Destroying is easy, yet building a bridge takes courage, perseverance, and maybe most importantly a purpose. A purpose that first takes you on a bridge, genuinely trying to understand and learn from other viewpoints. And perhaps later, building together with others bridges for communication and connection.

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