Parishioner-artist publishes book about Muslim carpenters’ gift to Pope Francis
February 7th, 2017
By Christina Gray
A book for children about a pair of Muslim carpenters chosen by the Vatican to make a chair for Pope Francis for his visit to war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summer of 2015 will be released in March by San Francisco author and artist Stefan Salinas.
“A Muslim Family’s Chair for the Pope” is the true story of Salim Hajderovac and Edin Hajderovac, father and son woodworkers known for the religious carvings including crosses they produce from their shop in the town of Zavidovici in central Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Salinas, a convert to Catholicism in 2012, was inspired to write the book, his second, to help readers – children and the adults who may read it to them – appreciate people of other cultures and faiths instead of fear them.
“My ear is a little sensitive to when people talk about other religions, cultures or people with generalizations,” Salinas told Catholic San Francisco. The transplanted Texan, now a parishioner at Most Holy Redeemer Parish, says it’s all too easy to do. “What I’ve heard people say about Texans or Californians is not always true.”
Salinas went online to search for examples of both faiths working together and came upon a story in a Bosnian paper about the Hajderovac family, Muslims who hand-carve devotional objects for both Christians and Muslims. The carpenters were among many who vied for an unpaid opportunity offered by the Vatican to make a chair for Pope Francis’ visit to Sarajevo on June 6, 2015.
Making contact with and communicating with the carpenters about his idea of a book was itself a story of divine providence and cultural goodwill.
Salinas emailed an Islamic community of Bay Area Bosnians in San Jose for help and a woman originally from a neighboring town managed to produce the carpenters’ website and email address.
A Facebook contact led to another neighbor now working as a baker in Los Angeles. He helped coordinate and translate a three-way Skype call between Salinas and the carpenters to discuss the book idea and has continued to act as a bridge between them.
Through that same translator, the carpenters told Catholic San Francisco that their offer to make a chair for the pope received not just a blessing from Muslim leaders but encouragement. Their proposal was then taken to the Vatican where the pope himself “gave us his blessings.”