Martin Luther King III visits Bosnia

Martin Luther King III told young people in Bosnia on Tuesday that the country’s ethnic and religious diversity can be converted from a weakness to a strength.

Speaking in Sarajevo to students and civil rights activists, the son of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged that Bosnia has gone through difficult times but said its youth could join together to promote tolerance and unity.

Like his own country, Bosnia is home to an extremely diverse people, he said

“Such diversity can unfortunately be a source of great conflict. However, when people are willing to work hard enough, it can be a source of great strength as well,” he said.

Since the 1992-95 war, Bosnia remains ethnically divided and its school system is one of the worst examples of segregation in Europe where Bosniak, Croat and Serb children attend separate classes and are taught different versions of history.

King described his country’s difficult path from racial segregation to the election of Barrack Obama as America’s first black president. He urged Bosnia’s youth to take the initiative and promote unity and equal rights.

“I would have not come all this way if I didn’t believe that 50 years from now other countries around the world will be looking to Bosnia as a model for what people can do,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador Charles English said the embassy hopes the message of King’s father will resonate among students and teachers.

King will visit several Bosnian cities during is weeklong stay.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.