From- Catholic International - October, 1995

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pg 455


The Catholic auxiliary bishop of Sarajevo has rejected charges by Bosnia's president and Islamic spiritual leader that all Christians share the blame for the massacre of Muslims in the Balkans.

Meanwhile, another senior Church figure has appealed to the leader of the republic's rebel Serbs to stop the killing and expulsion of Catholics from his diocese.

In a statement, Auxiliary Bishop Pero Sudar of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, said Catholics had also fallen victim "in equal measure" to the same aggressor. "We cannot disregard the dangers of this kind of irrational argumentation in the face of the suffering we are all experiencing," the Sarajevo auxiliary said.

Sudar was responding to claims by President Alia Izetbegovic in a Bosnian TV interview that the "whole Christian world" was responsible for the slaughter of Bosnia's Muslims.

Speaking in the besieged Muslim-held town of Tuzla, the republic's Muslim Rais-ul-ulema, Mustafa Ceric, the senior Bosnian Muslim cleric, said he also believed the "Christian world" stood behind current anti-Muslim atrocities, saying they had been perpetrated by "people declaring themselves Christians."

Allegations of a collective Christian responsibility for anti-Muslim actions in the Balkans have persisted since the 1991 outbreak of war.

In a July report, Serbian state TV's opposition-run "Studio B" quoted Bosnian Serb soldiers as claiming that the UN-declared "safe area" of Srebrenica had been captured "in defense of Christianity." However, in an open letter to Serbia's 'Nasa Borba' weekly, the widow of leading Serbian writer Danilo Kis said the program's claims that the city's Muslim civilians had "threatened Christian civilization" testified to the "Serb nation's moral collapse."

In late July, Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka urged Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to end a campaign of terror against Catholics still living in the region, adding that 42 Catholic churches had been totally destroyed in his diocese since the start of hostilities, while priests and nuns faced constant dangers. The bishop, who ended a hunger strike after May 25 talks with a Serbian Orthodox bishop but re-started his protest in July after several appeals to the international community, said Banja Luka's Catholic Church had protected the "lives and properties" of Orthodox Serbs during World War II. "The extermination of the remainder of the Catholic Church in western Bosnia cannot be justified by the Christian faith to which you adhere," the bishop said.

The U.S.-based Helsinki Watch group confirmed that half of Banja Luka's Catholic churches and all but two of the region's 202 Muslim mosques had been destroyed since 1992.

The local Catholic minority was reported by UN sources, after Croatia's early May reoccupation of nearby Western Slavonia, to have dwindled by more than four-fifths to 20,000.

Catholic International, Warsaw Bureau Johnathan Luxmoore, August 3, 1995.