Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bosnian Catholics face increasing Islamic fundamentalism

In Bosnia-Herzegovina,nuns now only leave the convent in pairs out of fear of abuse.  

Nuns wearing habits are subjected to verbal abuse in public more and more frequently.  

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Ivanka Mihaljevic (pictured), Bosnian Provincial Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King said that everyday life is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more Muslim extremists are immigrating from Saudi Arabia and opening businesses.  

The nuns often have no other choice but to buy from them, but in doing so are also subjected to discrimination and humiliations.  

For example, once when bread loaves were in plain sight in a shop, the proprietor told Catholic nuns that he was out of bread, rather than sell to them.

“Again and again, we are made to feel unwelcome, even though this is our home,” said Sister Ivanka emphasised, who explained that native Bosnian Muslims are peaceable, and are often ashamed of the behaviour of their more extreme colleagues who migrate to the country. 

The Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in Sarajevo are particularly committed to promoting the peaceful coexistence of all religions. They have launched a three-year program entitled, I extend to you my hand for peaceful coexistence.

In this initiative, Catholics, Muslims and Serbian Orthodox Christians are jointly working to promote tolerance, non-violence and mutual respect.  

This year the joint effort against verbal abuse tops the agenda.  

The Bosnian Province of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King comprises 260 nuns, of whom 15 live in Sarajevo. 

Cardinal Vinko Puljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, has also highlighted the growth of extremism in the country and said that the growing process of Islamisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is being funded by radicals in the Middle East.  

During an ACN interview, he said that there are already 3,000 to 5,000 Wahhabis (members of a radical Islamic reform movement), in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the group is seeking to gain influence in society.

“Muslim centres and mosques have been built in many places with oil-dollars from Saudi Arabia,” he said. 

“Nobody in the government has the courage to do anything to prevent this development.  In recent years, at least 70 new mosques have been built in Sarajevo alone.”

While mosques are being built or repaired, Cardinal Puljic pointed out that building approval for churches can be delayed for years, adding that Church property confiscated under communism has still not been returned.  

The Archbishop of Sarajevo went on to say, “Catholics are systematically disadvantaged” and demanded equal treatment for Catholics in employment, education and other spheres of life.

Despite these problems, the cardinal said the Catholic Church is seeking greater cooperation between different ethnic and religious groups.  

“We are a minority, but we are a constructive force that wishes to make a contribution to the success of society.”

The country is close to 40 per cent Muslim and 31 per cent are Serbian Orthodox.  Catholics are 10 per cent. 

Of the 820,000 Catholics who lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the 1992- 1995 war, only 460,000 remain and emigration is ongoing.