Peacemakers: Playing a cello to change the world Smajlović playing in Sarajevo. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Our guest writer is Daniel Buttry, author of Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
Here is Dan’s fifth and final report…

Verdran Smajlović didn’t have much to offer. He was a talented musician, a cellist. But his home city Sarajevo was being shelled to rubble. If you want to serve your country to rescue it from madness—then you use what you have. Smajlović had a cello.

One day when Sarajevo was under siege by the Serb militia, gunners fired a shell into the middle of a line of people waiting to buy bread. Twenty-two people died. Smajlović couldn’t fight back, at least not with bullets. Instead he took his cello and chair, sat in the shell hole, and played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. He returned again the next day and the next until he had played a day for each person slain. 

A simple act, but it galvanized Sarajevo! Smajlović’s action captured the poignant tragedy endured by so many in the war. Snipers fired at him, and mortars exploded in the surrounding neighborhood. He told reporters, “You ask me: Am I crazy for playing the cello? Why do you not ask if they are not crazy for shelling Sarajevo?” Smajlović continued to play. He played all over Sarajevo, played in parks that were turned into cemeteries, played at funerals, played at gatherings in cellars. Smajlović’s action to use what he had inspired other artists to use their gifts for peace and healing. His story is featured in Blessed Are the Peacemakers.

When we see challenges that seem daunting, hopeless and crushing, what do we do? Do we hunker down and simply try to get by?

What examples do you recall of music making a difference in the world?

What examples have you seen of peacemakers using tools other than guns?

What do you have that you might use to make peace?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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