ACN News: Tuesday, 1st August 2012 – Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina: “The peoples will only attain peace together”
Calling them “a disastrous understanding of peace”, the Executive President of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Johannes Freiherr Heereman, criticised attempts to solve the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina by separating the different population groups.
During a tour of all the country’s Catholic dioceses and after numerous meetings with local Church representatives, he was able to gain a personal picture of the situation there. Many villages where Catholic Croatians had lived before the Bosnian war (1992-95) remain abandoned and in ruins, he reported. Official aid mainly benefits the non-Catholic population groups. The return of the Catholic Croatians who were driven out during the war is not desired by the majority of politicians, either inside the country or internationally. “I have the impression that most politicians just want to get the problem off their desks by separating the population groups wherever possible,” said Heereman. “But the peoples will only attain peace together. They must be helped to find paths to reconciliation”.
He was impressed, he said, by how strongly the Catholic Church struggles for peace and social reconciliation despite its small numbers. Commendable, for example, is its youth work, which brings together boys and girls from the different population groups. By letting the young people participate in sport together and get to know one another better, it makes a constructive contribution to a more peaceful society. In addition, the Catholic charitable institutions take no account of the ethnic or religious affiliations of those in need, and perform concrete works of reconciliation in the spirit of Christian neighbourly love. “I was very impressed by how lovingly they care for old and severely handicapped people, of whom in many places only a minority are Catholics. Where the Church cares for the poorest regardless of their origin, it offers a living witness to the faith,” the ACN President underlined.
(Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo (Bosnia), and Johannes Freiherr Heereman, Executive President of ACN, in the renovated Cathedral of Sarajevo)
But even now, 17 years after the end of the war, the Church urgently needs support from abroad, Heereman pointed out. Many churches, parish buildings, monasteries and other facilities are still damaged. Moreover, the Church also tries as best it can to help returning war refugees to rebuild their homes and villages. It will continue to require substantial aid in the future, he emphasised. But despite all the hardships and its financial need, the Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina is “no fearful Church” but is marked by a “powerful faith in God”.
Of the 835,000 Catholics living in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the war, only 450,000 remain. Today, 40 percent of the population are followers of Islam, and some 31 percent belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. The remainder belong to other religious communities. Catholics still account for about 10 percent of the population. ACN regularly supports the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the past year, the international Catholic charity provided aid worth nearly $1 million to the Church in the South-East European country.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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