(Vatican Radio) Christians are massively leaving post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina amid
mounting discrimination and Islamization, according to a new report.
"Many believers leave the country since war raged 20 years ago," said Netherlands-based advocacy and aid group Kerk in Nood, or 'Church in Need', in the report obtained by Vatican Radio.
There are just 440,000 Catholics left in the Balkan nation, half the prewar figure, the group said.
The report came on the heels of talks between the cardinal of Sarajevo, Vinko Puljic, and European Council President Herman van Rompuy about difficulties faced by Bosnia's Christians.
Puljic reportedly complained that while dozens of mosques were build in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, no building permissions were given for Christian churches. "The cardinal already waits 13 years on permission to build just a small church," Church in Need said.
Authorities so far refused to return hundreds of nationalized church buildings, despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights to do so, according to Christian officials.
Additionally tens of thousands of people, many of them Catholic Croats, have been prevented from returning home following the war, Church in Need said. These obstacles violate the Dayton peace accords that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, which split the nation between a Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation.
"Time is running out as there is a worrisome rise in radicalism," Puljic said, who added that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina were "persecuted for centuries" after European powers "failed to support them in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire."
Puljic has made clear however that despite the "discrimination" of the Catholic community, his denomination wants reconciliation with Muslims and Orthodox Serb Christians. In published remarks, Van Rompuy made clear that giving Bosnia-Herzegovina a "European perspective", the code word for eventual European Union membership, "is the only way to overcome the crisis".
He said a condition for closer ties with the EU is building a democratic nation that respects human rights for all faiths and the rule of law.
Yet with ethnic tensions remaining high, Western observers have warned that it will take years before the nation can join the Nobel Peace Prize winning Union.
Last week's meeting with Van Rompuy and European legislators, organized by Church in Need, also included talks on reconciliation projects in the troubled Balkan nation where the wounds of recent history have not yet healed completely. Over 100,000 people died and 2 million were displaced by the war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia.