Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jan 21, 2012 / 07:25 pm (EWTN News)
Radical Islam is increasing in Bosnia-Herzegovina because authorities are not challenging it and money is being sent to its followers by extremists in the Middle East, Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo says.
Cardinal Vinko Puljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, reports that Wahhabism is spreading in the Balkan country. There are 3,000 to 5,000 Wahhabis in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he says, adding that the group is trying to gain influence.
“Nobody in the government has the courage to do anything to prevent this development,” Cardinal Puljic told Aid to the Church in Need in a visit to its headquarters in Konigsberg, Germany.
“Muslim centers and mosques have been built in many places with petrodollars from Saudi Arabia.”
The 66-year-old cardinal said at least 70 new mosques have been built in Sarajevo alone in recent years.
Saudi Arabian money funded the reconstruction of Sarajevo’s Husrev Begova Mosque. The reconstruction removed internal mosaics to conform to Wahhabi aesthetics.
One report says that the King Fahd Mosque, the country’s largest Islamic place of worship, is a magnet for Muslim fundamentalists, according to Aid to the Church in Need.
Cardinal Poljic also sees Christian being treated unequally. He said that although mosques are being built or repaired, building approval for churches can be delayed for years. While in most cases Muslim property confiscated under communism has been returned, confiscated Church property has still not been returned to its owners.
The government “has no interest in giving the Catholic Church back its property,” the cardinal charged, while Catholics are “systematically disadvantaged.”
He demanded equal treatment for Catholics in employment, education, and other areas.
Meanwhile, the cardinal explained that 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.”
There are Catholic efforts to help resolve tensions in the region.
Sr. Ivanka Mihaljevic, the provincial superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in Bosnia, said her community has launched a three year program named “I extend to you my hand for peaceful coexistence.”
The program brings together Catholics, Muslims and Serbian Orthodox Christians to promote tolerance, non-violence and mutual respect.
“These are small steps of peace and goodwill but we want to imbue the people with courage,” Sr. Mihaljevic told Aid to the Church in Need.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is about 40 percent Muslim and 31 percent Serbian Orthodox. Catholics make up 10 percent of the country and their numbers have suffered due to emigration since the 1992 to 1995 war.
While 820,000 lived in the country before the war, only 460,000 remain and many continue to leave.
For a well researched background report see an article appeared 2009 in San Francisco Sentinel, from which the photos posted above are taken.