Increase in Cases of Intolerance and Hatred in BiH reported by all Religious Communities

June 27, 2019 5:00 PM

In May the Interreligious Council of BiH, which records and tracks cases of intolerance and hatred in an annual report when members of affected religious communities report them, released data it had collected between November 2016 and December 2017. 

The data showed 11 attacks on religious sites, religious officials, or believers during that period (compared with 12 in the report covering November 2015-October 2016).  One attack was against a Catholic site, seven against the IC, and three against the SOC.  Of 209 attacks on religious officials and sites since 2010, the IRC reported police had identified perpetrators in 73 of the attacks.  As of May 2018, the courts had prosecuted 23 of these cases.  The IRC stated that while there were fewer reported attacks, authorities continued their practice of not categorizing these attacks as hate crimes.

In March unknown perpetrators stole items from and desecrated the Catholic Church of Saint Elijah the Prophet in Zenica, causing significant material damage.  The local chapter of the IRC condemned the incident, but as of year’s end, no perpetrators had been identified.  In June individuals broke into an Orthodox church in the town of Cekrekije in the Visoko Municipality, set fire to sacral items, and stole valuables.  Police arrested two suspects and forwarded the case to the Zenica Doboj Prosecutor’s Office for further proceedings.  On July 10, three minors verbally accosted a Catholic nun in the central town of Fojnica.  Police identified the perpetrators and discussed the incident with their parents.  The local mayor condemned the attack.

The Council of Muftis of the IC continued efforts to persuade unregistered Islamic congregations (or para-jamaats), which gathered predominantly Salafist followers and operated outside the purview of the IC, to cease their “unsanctioned” religious practices and officially unite with the IC.  While the IC reported that 64 para‑jamaats were active in 2016, only 21 were active and operating outside the auspices of the IC in 2018.

On July 18, during a talk show on the Serbian television program Cirilica, also broadcast on Alternative TV in BiH, then RS President and leader of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats Milorad Dodik referred to the adhan (Muslim call to worship) as “howling” that disturbed citizens in Banja Luka and caused property values to depreciate.  The statement drew strong condemnation from opposition politicians, the international community, and the IC.

On July 20, anti-Semitic graffiti appeared, almost at the same time, inside the hallways of apartment buildings in Tuzla and Sarajevo, where members of the Jewish community resided.  Authorities condemned the incidents.  No perpetrators were identified by year’s end.

On December 28, 2017, individuals threw beer bottles at the city mosque in Kiseljak, inflicting light damage to the mosque’s facade.  Police identified the perpetrators and forwarded the case to the local prosecutor’s office.  No information was available what sanctions, if any, were handed down to the perpetrators.

The IRC continued to sponsor projects aimed at increasing interfaith dialogue involving women and youth.  On April 23, in cooperation with the German Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, the IRC organized its fourth “European Workshop on Facing the Past Burdened with Violence,” which also involved participants from other European countries.  Within the project, religious leaders visited places of suffering of each ethnic/religious group from past wars.  The visits included the testimonies of victims in those places.

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