Media CenterInspired by Pope Francis, New Master’s Program on Interreligious Studies and Peacebuilding Kicks Off in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Photo by Nikki Gamer/CRS

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Megan Gilbert
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(443) 825-3640


SARAJEVO, November 8, 2017 – The first class of a joint master’s program on Interreligious Studies and Peacebuilding is now underway in Bosnia and Herzegovina, two years after Pope Francis, in a visit to the ethnically-divided southeastern European country, urged Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Jews and others to work together to build peace.

With support from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the country’s three theological seminaries - the Faculty of Islamic Sciences, the Catholic Theological Faculty and Orthodox Theological Faculty of St. Basil of Ostrog -  formally came together for the first time to develop a joint degree program. The first class of 23 students from across the country’s religious communities met on October 26, 2017, and over the coming year, will take courses with professors from all three seminaries and other academic departments.

More than 20 years after the war that killed 100,000 people and displaced millions, Bosnia and Herzegovina still struggles with deep ethnic divisions. This degree program, the first of its kind in the region, will allow graduates to gain the knowledge and practical skills necessary to build a lasting framework for maintaining peace.

“Joint-study programs like this one offer a unique opportunity to use religion as a catalyst for peace,” Marc D’Silva, CRS country representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said. “This program will show how religious institutions can train a new generation of religious and civil society leaders to be advocates for a more just and better society.”

The master’s program is intended for students with degrees in theology, social sciences and humanities who have shown an interest in interreligious studies and peacebuilding. CRS, which coordinated the interfaith initiative, will promote local scholarships and identify potential internships and job opportunities with mayors and civil society organizations across the country. The program will initially be offered to domestic students, with the possibility of expansion in the coming years to nearby Balkan countries, Western Europe and the United States.

"This program represents efforts of the three faculties to work, on a scientific basis, on peace-building and reconciliation in this country. Above all, we want to ensure as good a foundation as possible for a better future for Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the capacity that we, as institutions within religious communities and churches, can provide,” Darko Tomašević, Dean of the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University in Sarajevo, said.

Zuhdija Hasanović, Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Sciences of the University in Sarajevo added: "We always try to find ways to act more significantly. Each of the faculties works on developing a sense of respect for 'others,’ or different ones, but this study program is something special and it will, hopefully, yield real results.”

Vladislav Topalović, Dean of the Orthodox Theological Faculty "St. Basil of Ostrog" of the University in East Sarajevo added: "Efforts invested by our three faculties in the past two years, in organization of this program, really need to be appreciated. There is no other foundation on which the culture of peace can be based, but on interreligious dialogue. It is our only exit, our only path on which we can base that culture of peace, and trust among all of us in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

CRS has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina since 1993, when it began providing emergency relief to people living under siege in Sarajevo. At the end of the war, CRS helped families return to homes they fled during the conflict. CRS continues these efforts through rebuilding and constructing housing and infrastructure, promoting livelihoods and education, and providing psychological support. 


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnewsYouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.