CHAPTER TEN: RELIGION AS HALLMARK OF NATIONHOOD
The war in Bosnia not only took the lives of many people (mostly civilians) and left many more injured and approximately half the population displaced; it was also characterized by the destruction of religious buildings. The destruction was rather one-sided--over 1,000 mosques were destroyed, while nearly 200 Catholic churches and 28 Orthodox churches were also destroyed.
As Perica notes, religious institutions played an important role in fueling the ethnic conflicts which tore Yugoslavia apart:
"The three largest religious organizations, as impartial foreign and domestic analysts have agreed, were among the principal engineers of the crisis and conflict. Western analysts noticed religious insignia on the battlefield, prayers before the combat and during battles, religious salutes, clergy in uniforms and under arms; elite combat units labeled "the Muslim Army" or "Orthodox Army" accompanied by clergy; massive destruction of places of worship; forms of torture such as carving religious insignia into human flesh; and so on."
These obvious manifestations of religious influence only serve to illustrate the underlying reality--that the national churches bore a great deal of responsibility for defining and amplifying the fears which fueled the violence. Perica points out that Serb nationalists acknowledged that they struck first in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, but that they justified their actions as being proactive and defensive in nature, since they were reacting to the perceived threat of genocide at the hands of the "enemy nations" they lived among. And those threats were, by and large, articulated and justified by the Serbian Church. The same church that drew parallels between the fate of the Serbs and the Jews, between Kosovo and Jerusalem, and between Auschwitz and Jasenovac.
At the end of this short section, Perica adds that the Croats and the Muslim national churches also developed martyr-nation myths of their own.
Religion and Nationalism in the Successor StatesPerica notes that:
"In all the successor states of the former Yugoslavia except perhaps in Slovenia, religion became the hallmark of nationhood."
He illustrates this point in the next few sections, which I will summarize in my next post.