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Sarajevo’s Catholics Seek Minority Rights

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Children dressed as angels arrive to re-enact a nativity scene during 2011 Christmas celebrations in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sarajevo Catholic officials say the city’s Muslim-dominated government is not protecting minority rights, but the mayor s aid his city is committed to providing a home for all religious faiths. (photo: CNS/Dado Ruvic, Reuters) 

16 May 2012 – by Jonathan Luxmoore

OXFORD, England (CNS) — Sarajevo Catholic officials say the city’s Muslim-dominated government is not protecting minority rights, but the mayor said his city is committed to providing a home for all religious faiths.

Sarajevo Mayor Alija Behmen said city authorities “treat all citizens equally and pay equal attention to all — the structure of the city council and city administration is multinational and multireligious.”

“Sarajevo has cultivated multiculturalism for centuries, which is a rarity in Europe, and will continue doing so. This is an axiom for our city’s authorities,” Behmen told Catholic News Service.

In an April statement, Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic said Christians faced an uncertain future in the predominantly Muslim city after their numbers decreased by a third in the past decade.

In an April 6 statement commemorating the start of the 1992-95 siege by Bosnian Serb forces, the cardinal said: “After such a violent and senseless war, it was hard to believe Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews could live together any longer. With positions opposed between Croats, Serbs and Bosnians, the reality by which diverse peoples lived together here has begun to splinter and falter.”

Behmen told Catholic News Service May 9 that the city’s demographic structure had changed, but added that he had no current data on its inhabitants and their ethnic backgrounds.

“Sarajevo has realized a successful cooperation with religious communities and churches for many years and supported their activities financially in restoring and rebuilding religious structures, including places of cultural and historic heritage, as well as in backing educational, social and humanitarian events,” he said.

He added that his office would investigate claims of discrimination and rejected suggestions city authorities were “under pressure” to promote Islamic values by restricting alcohol and imposing dress codes on non-Muslims.

However, the vicar-general of the Sarajevo Archdiocese, Msgr. Matko Zovkic, accused the mayor of “ignoring realities.”

“In theory, everyone is treated equally under the law here, but in practice this isn’t the case,” Msgr. Zovkic told CNS May 11.





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Tags: Interreligious Catholic-Muslim relations Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnian Catholics Sarajevo