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16927Christianity under threat in Sarajevo

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Sep 13, 2012

      Christianity under threat in Sarajevo
      Thursday, September 13, 2012

      SARAJEVO: The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has warned that
      Christianity was under threat in Sarajevo, as Muslim and Christian
      clerics argued during talks meant to promote reconciliation.
      “Christianity is very threatened here,” Patriarch Irinej said in an
      interview with Bosnian Serb public television during his visit to
      Sarajevo, adding the Serb population “today does not live in the city”.

      He was in Sarajevo to take part in an annual gathering of the Rome-based
      Catholic lay community of Sant’Egidio focused on reconciliation in the
      once war-torn Balkans region. “The most tragic (thing) is that many who
      might want to, do not have the opportunity to return (to Sarajevo),”
      Irinej said on RTRS television, calling on Europe to “put right a great
      injustice”. Before the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, the scene of some of the
      worst atrocities committed in Europe after World War II, Serbs were the
      second largest community in the Bosnian capital after Muslims.

      A 1991 census recorded 259,000 Muslims and 157,000 Serbs among
      Sarajevo’s population of 527,000. The majority of Serbs left Sarajevo,
      under almost four years of siege by Bosnian Serb troops during the war,
      for safer areas of Bosnia’s Serb entity. After the war the capital
      became part of the Muslim-dominated Muslim Croat Federation. Today
      Muslims represent the overwhelming majority, between 80 and 90 percent,
      of the population in Sarajevo. Sarajevo’s Muslim mayor Alija Behmen said
      he would not enter into a debate with the Serb Orthodox leader.

      Some 100,000 people were killed in Bosnia’s war that involved the
      country’s three main ethnic groups-Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and
      Muslims. Relations between the three main communities remain deeply
      damaged 17 years on and a dispute between Bosnia’s mufti Mustafa Ceric
      and Orthodox Bishop Grigorije erupted during Tuesday’s reconciliation
      talks. Ceric insisted that reconciliation was possible only when the
      Serbs apologize for the crimes committed during the war, while the
      bishop accused him of preaching for an “Islamic state” for Bosnia’s
      Muslims. “The concept of reconciliation includes the concept of
      forgiveness. But… to forgive one’s sins, one must recognize committing
      them,” said Ceric.

      Without reacting to Ceric’s remarks, Grigorije recounted a meeting the
      two clerics had recently with New York’s rabbi Arthur Schneier during
      which, he said, Ceric called for the establishment of a state for
      Bosnia’s Muslims. “You said there was no Judaism without a Hebrew state,
      so there is no Islam without an Islamic state,” Grigorije said. Ceric
      condemned his claims as “lies”, insisting such “accusations led to
      genocide on my people, as anti-Semitism had led to the Holocaust”,
      referring to the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in
      Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb troops. The Sant’Egidio community, which was
      founded in the Franciscan tradition in Rome in 1968, has frequently
      acted as a mediator in international conflicts.

      A three-day interfaith meeting in Sarajevo gathered representatives of
      Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist communities who
      jointly called for peace and “spiritual” connection of the peoples in
      the world. “We speak in one voice, despite our different confessions and
      our histories. The voices emerging from a deep religious tradition (…)
      unite in a joint call for peace,” said Andrea Riccardi, Italian minister
      for international cooperation and integration and one of the founders of
      Sant’Egidio. The final ceremony was attended by around 1,000 people who
      walked to Sarajevo’s central square led by their religious leaders after
      simultaneous prayers.- AFP