Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

The Arrest of Radovan Karadžić

In 1996, when I arrived as a Peacekeeper and an intelligence analyst in Bosnia, there was a mission at the top of our list… find Radovan Karadžić. My team and I knew he was most likely in Serbia, probably Belgrade… where we had no jurisdiction and where the U.S. Government had little influence. But we combed data looking for traces of him.

I had witnessed the results of his illegal orders to the Army of the Republika Serpska. I had seen the devastation around Sarajevo, I had seen the barricaded neighborhoods, the destroyed buildings, the landmines. I heard the stories of the massacres of civilians, and I had seen the evidence. I saw the hatred that men like Karadžić inspired, both in their own followers and in the hearts of those they committed genocide against. I even saw some of their handy-work first hand, and it haunted me for years.

My experience in Bosnia was my “bright light and voice ” on the road to Damascus. It was the experience in my life that broke me out of my assumptions about life and humanity, and began me on a path that led to a new understanding of the world. Learning to come to terms with having all of my assumptions shaken, facing that level of hatred, violence, and cruelty, is what led me to seek a vision of hope and unity, to seek a way for people to live together that would never allow this kind of religious and ethnic hatred to occur again…

The experience of Bosnia generally, and of facing the reality of the crimes of Radovan Karadžić and those under his command that opened my heart to the vision of “The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person” and “The Interdependent Web of all Existence of which we are a part.”

So, at least in part, I owe thanks to Karadžić that I became a Unitarian Universalist.

How odd it is that Karadžić has spent these last 12 years hiding in plain sight in Serbia, as a salesman for herbal and alternative medicine, something I myself am interested in. How odd it is that he has been attending conferences, leading workshops, and even visiting Austria. It is odd because I can’t seem to reconcile the image of him that I had built in my mind when I was an intelligence analyst, and the image of who he has been living as these last 12 years.

Looking at the picture of him, with a beard and a pony-tail, I’m certain I could have met him, shaken his hand, and even spoken with him about herbal medicine… and had no idea who he really was. To know that he has continued writing his poetry this whole time also makes me wonder if I ever really knew him at all… even though I studied him and his record for years.

I’m glad he’s been arrested finally… and not just for reasons of justice. He does need to answer for the illegal and genocidal orders he gave during the Bosnian War. But, more than this, I think his arrest, and my finally knowing where he was and what he was doing, has cracked open this little hard place in my heart… it has allowed me to see him as human… something I have not been able to do for some time. And to see my connections with and the inherent worth and dignity of Radovan Karadžić.

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If I can see it in him, then I can see it in anyone.

Yours in Faith,


2 Thoughts on “The Arrest of Radovan Karadžić

  1. I appreciate your post, David, more than I can post here. I do still struggle to see his inherent worth – given that he would have murdered members of my family… But, as a wise teacher once said “this is this, because that is that.” Perhaps Karadzic’s are necessary, for us to appreciate the Gandhi’s?

  2. Pingback: Celestial Lands » Blog Archive » On Trial…

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