A bishop in Bosnia-Herzegovina says that Catholic refugees from the Yugoslav wars conducted in the 1990s continue to suffer and face barriers to their return home.
“Croatian Catholics must finally be put on an equal footing with the
other two ethnic groups,” Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka said recently.
“They must be allowed to return from abroad and possibilities must be created for them to build up a life in their home towns.”
In the early 1990s, the breakup of Yugoslavia worsened tensions over
territory and the future of minority ethnic groups, and erupted into
wars primarily involving Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslim
The war killed over 100,000, and displaced hundreds of thousands. After
NATO bombings, the Bosnian war ended in 1995 with the Dayton Accords,
signed by the presidents of the countries of Bosnia, Croatia, and
Catholic Church sources say only a little more than half of the 835,000
Catholics who had lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the civil war live
In the Bosnian Serb Republic, one of the two constitutive
divisions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Catholic population has fallen from
220,000 to 11,500.
Bishop Komarica, who is head of the bishops’ conference of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, lamented that Catholic Croats “have not received a
cent” of international funding intended to help repatriate refugees.
Catholics who return to their homes have “no guarantee for a sustainable
return, no houses, no work, no electricity, no roads, no medical
provision and no schools.” He stressed that Croats “must finally be put
on an equal footing with the other two ethnic groups.”
Catholics with Croat names often have more difficulty finding work, he added.
The refugees are “citizens with no established rights.” The bishop said
“hardly any of the local politicians take up their cause,” especially in
the Bosnian Serb Republic, though some have promised action.
Bishop Komarica warned that Bosnia-Herzegovina suffers from instability
that discourages the foreign investment needed to help the economy.
“This country, which was divided unnaturally and unjustly into two by
the Dayton Accords in 1995, is sinking into social and political chaos,”
The Dayton Accords split the country into two autonomous entities: the
Bosnian Serb Republic and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Banja Luka, Bishop Komarica's see, is the de facto capital of the
Bosnian Serb Republic.
The bishop charged that there has been a “betrayal of European values
and principles” and “a failure to comply with international agreements”
in the country. He called this a “disgrace” both for the country’s
politicians and “the international politicians who are responsible for
the Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Bishop Komarica said that the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina has
been working for years to advance social and political harmony through
its social and educational projects.