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BOSNIA’S POLITICAL CRISIS THREATENS TO REIGNITE ARMED CONFLICT

Bosnia

This past week, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik announced that the Serbian entity in the Bosnian federation (Republika Srpska) was moving towards forming its own autonomous Bosnian Serb army, after pulling out of the joint armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter referred to as Bosnia). Dodik also withdrew the Serb-run entity from two other major joint institutions, namely the top judiciary body and tax administration on 8 October. Bosnia was divided into two entities – the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat dominated Federation – in December 1995 with the signing of the United States-brokered Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the three-and-a-half-year-war between the country’s three ethnic groups, which killed over 100,000 people and displaced two million. The Bosnian government is led by a tripartite presidency that rotates every eight months between representatives of the Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. The Serb presidency member has been threatening the dissolution of Bosnia for about 15 years. However, in the past month, major steps have been taken towards achieving full autonomy within the country, supposedly triggered by the High Representative’s banning of genocide denial, established war crimes, and the glorification of war criminals in July. The Serb leadership’s actions are a violation of the 1995 peace accords and has placed Bosnia in its worst political and security crisis since the war. The move has particularly alarmed many Bosniaks, who fear a return to the violence of the 1990s, when the Bosnian Serb army, together with the Serb police, intelligence, and security, carried out systematic violence against non-Serbs – declared a genocide by the International Criminal Court in 2007. Some argue that Dodik has been emboldened by both a lack of pressure from the European Union and United States and support from Russia and traditional ally Serbia. Some have warned that if the international community fails to intervene to curb the threat to the peace deal, there is a serious risk of further division and conflict erupting, with wider regional implications.

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

BOSNIA
POPULATION: ± 3.2 MILLION CHRISTIAN: 40.73%
EVANGELICAL: 0.26%
UNREACHED GROUPS: 3 (51.3% of pop.)

While the current political crisis is deeply concerning, unresolved rivalries and opposing interests have caused continued periodic flare-ups in tensions since the end of the war. An INcontext contact working in Bosnia shared that the inability to resolve the political situation is one of the main reasons Bosnians choose to leave the country, feeling that there is no hope for the country’s future. The Global Church can pray for the Lord to instil hope among Bosnians, especially believers, that they will remain in the country and be part of the solution. Believers, who know the true hope found in Christ, have an even greater opportunity in a time of heightened hopelessness, to spread the hope of the Gospel, as well as hope in the God of the impossible to bring a breakthrough in a situation that seems insurmountable after decades of inter-ethno-religious hostility. Since the political tension involves more than ethnicity, but also religious differences – Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats, and Orthodox Serbs – believers have an opportunity to demonstrate the true Christian calling of reconciliation, peace, forgiveness, mercy, and unity. Christians can be a specific source of comfort towards their Muslim Bosniak neighbours who are feeling particularly fearful of a return to the genocidal violence of the not-so-distant past. Over 83% of all civilian casualties in the war were reportedly Muslims, and while many church buildings were destroyed, considerably more mosques were devastated. The international community, which was engaged in the reconstruction process for about 10 years after the war, should carefully and earnestly consider how it can appropriately help to diffuse the current crisis. While it should act swiftly, these interventions should not be “quick-fix” solutions but rather relevant and effective for the long-term.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For the right people – local and international – to be involved in brokering a peaceful and sustainable resolution to the threats facing Bosnia, and for open ears and hearts to respect and listen to what the other sides have to say
  • For hope among Bosnians and a resolve to remain in the country and be part of the answer to the country’s unresolved political crisis, especially among believers
  • For Christians to set an example of Christ’s heart for unity, forgiveness, mercy, peace, and reconciliation

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Image: REUTERS/Stringer

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