“Selam alejkum”, says Adi with a bright smile on his face while extending his right hand towards me. I smile back and he instructs me to respond “Alejkum selam” to his greeting while I shake his right hand with mine. “This is how we greet each other in our culture, and it is in Arabic” he adds, explaining the meaning of the greeting, “Selam Alejkum means peace with you and Alejkum Selam means god bless you or peace with you too, this is how we show respect”. This is how Adi introduces me to his world, a world filled with hope and optimism, a world that started in the outskirts of Mostar, where he grew up, surrounded by nature.
When asked about Mostar, the smiley face of Adi changes a bit, as he says that Mostar means everything to him, but he feels pain every time people mention the division that characterizes the city, because he believes in unity. He lives in the west side of the city, in what he describes to be a “mixed neighbourhood”, with people from all religious backgrounds, with whom he celebrates everything together, from Christmas to Ramadan. He wishes more people would do that, share and learn from each other, just as he was taught by his mother and older sister, and just as he tries to teach his younger sister, in what he called “the circle of life”.
Adi’s wishes captures the spirit of Mostar’s youth, a spirit willing to write a new history based on unity and acceptance, willing to rewrite “the circle of life” to imagine a new future in which the river banks no longer mean division but the opportunity to cross borders and celebrate difference.