Martin Luther King’s Dream is Alive in Tuzla

Martin Luther King III in Stolac, 2009.

Tuzla’s mayor, Jasmin Imamovic, is using an innovative “3-T” formula for developing his city’s economy. Along with focusing on technology and talent – the first two Ts – Mayor Imamovic believes that tolerance is also critical for economic development. “Without tolerance, you have nothing,” he says. “Who will want to come to your city?”

Given the unfortunate divisions that remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the emphasis on tolerance by Mayor Imamovic is a breath of fresh air. He spoke about tolerance on Saturday, January 14, while placing flowers in front of the city’s statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Like Dr. King, I truly believe that people should be judged by their actions, not by the color of their skin. This is a universal value. But Mayor Imamovic correctly points out that it is also smart for economic development: What business would want to open in a place where possible customers face segregation or even basic rude treatment based on the color of their skin, or, in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the religion of their birth?

Tuzla has a long tradition of tolerance, including some famously heroic actions by its citizens during World War II to protect neighbors of different religious beliefs. I am touched to know that there is a statue today of Dr. King in Tuzla and that the American Holiday marking his birth (January 15, 1929) is remembered. Several years ago, Dr. King’s grandson visited Tuzla, as well as several other cities in BiH.

Many young people here repeatedly tell me that they are frustrated with the pace of progress, but I urge them not to give up. Consider that only 40 years after Dr. King’s assassination, the citizens of my country elected an African-American president. Change is possible. I hope citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be inspired by Dr. King’s message to create a country based on their dreams, not their frustrations.