Bosnia Appeal: Faith, hope and charities

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HAVING received more than pounds 3,000 from the Independent Bosnia Appeal, Cafod, the Catholic overseas aid agency, has just given pounds 10,000 towards a farming project being run by Islamic Relief, another agency benefiting from the appeal. This is the first time that Cafod has given financial help to another charity, other than Caritas, working in the former Yugoslavia. It is also the first project in which Islamic Relief has asked for funds from other agencies: Oxfam and Christian Aid have also contributed.

The project, which began last autumn, is based at Gunja, a village in south-east Slovenia on the Croatian/Bosnian border. 1,700 Bosnians from Brcko and other villages have sought refuge in Gunja, with its own population of 5,000; they are all staying with local families, some of whom they knew well before the war.

The strain - in spite of many being friends, and many of the Croatian hosts being Muslims - is beginning to tell, and the farming project is intended to maintain and improve relations between the inhabitants and the displaced.

Designed as development aid rather than emergency relief, the project has so far allocated land to 600 families. Those chosen are a mix of displaced people and townsfolk, most of whom farmed before the war.

Priority has been given to vulnerable groups such as single parents, the disabled and the unemployed. Soon they will receive seed, fertiliser, tools, goats, sheep, chickens and bees.

Such a step is of particular importance in former Yugoslavia, where religion has been forced into the war arena. Both Cafod and Islamic Relief are keen to show that agencies representing particular religious beliefs can co-operate. Saleh Salaeed, of Islamic Relief, says: 'Although we all maintain our religious principles, we all help people in need. What kind of religion would not?'

The Independent Bosnia Appeal has raised pounds 245,914.14 to help 15 charitable organisations working in the region. For every donation to one or more of charity, the Independent will add 10 per cent, up to pounds 30,000. The appeal closes on 31 January. If you would like to support it, please send a separate cheque for each donation, made payable to the organisation - wording as below - and send to: Bosnia Appeal, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

1 War Child; 2 Victims of War Appeal (former Yugoslavia) - this for the Red Cross; 3 Care; 4 Cafod (Bosnia); 5 Christian Aid (Bosnia); 6 Edinburgh Direct Aid; 7 Feed the Children; 8 Help the Aged Former Yugoslavia Appeal; 9 Islamic Relief Bosnia Fund; 10 Marie Stopes International (Bosnia); 11 Oxfam; 12 The Refugee Council; 13 Save the Children Fund; 14 Scottish European Aid; 15 UNA Trust Bosnia.