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Bosnia bishop says ethnic cleansings 'have become permanent'

Almost seven years after the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia "the ethnic cleansings have become permanent", according to Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka.

During a visit to the German headquarters of the international Catholic agency, Aid to the Church in Need, he said that out of a total of around 70,000 Catholics who had been expelled from the territory of his diocese, just 1800 had returned so far.

According to the bishop the authorities are systematically obstructing the return of these refugees.

"Hypocrisy and a lack of political will on the side of the authorities, together with the influential role of certain interested parties are combining to give the impression that the political crimes committed during the war have paid off," the bishop observed.

He also lamented the lack of material support by the international community - thus, for example, the aid program of the EU, known as CARDS, makes no provision for helping Catholics who wish to return to the region of Banja Luka in northern Bosnia.

The Church, along with all the faithful, must always be ready for reconciliation, yet at the same time they must never deny what they are, he remarked.

Bishop Komarica said that before the war there were 40 diocesan priests, while today there are just 22. They are supported in their pastoral and social work by 70 religious sisters, including some from Poland and Austria. The number of Catholics in the diocese of Banja Luka has fallen from 120,000 to 45,000.

Aid to the Church in Need

Aid to the Church in Need

25 Jun 2002