AIM
Place of worship or home – which is more important

Is It possible to live in God's house?

Slavko SANTIC

SAT, 27 MAY 2000


Sarajevo, 22 May, 2000 - Not long ago, while speaking in an interview about reconstruction of the demolished and construction of new places of worship (Catholic, in his case, of course), Bishop of Banja Luka Franjo Komarica said without any hesitation: “Churches will have to wait, a roof above one’s head is more important”. Bishop Komarica has declared this after the International League of Humanists had proclaimed him “the humanist of the year”.

When one knows how and in what difficult circumstances Bishop Komarica has spent the war and most of the post-war years in Banja Luka, when one knows that he has remained with his flock to share with it the exceptionally unfavourable status of ethnic and religious minority in an environment which is more than arrogant and intolerant to everybody and everything that is not Serb and Orthodox, such a stand of Bishop Komarica can be interpreted at least in two ways. From the aspect only of his religion and his religious mission and in comparison with the current stands of dignitaries of the other two religions (Islamic and Orthodox), his stand is almost blasphemous to his own religion! Can there be anything or anybody more important than God and God’s Temple!? But on the other hand, from the standpoint of humanity, and from the supernatural stand of many God’s (religious) instructions about it, Bishop Komarica has, in fact, taken this stand in the name of his religious and God’s mission he serves – Man is always the most important, because God and religion say so!

ABUSE OF RELIGION AND – PEOPLE’S MISERY

I do not know what kind of religious and political reactions were provoked by this statement of honourable Bishop Komarica, but I am certain that his (few) believers, the Croats who have remained in RS and whom he had so courageously protected from evil and distress during the entire war, have offered him their full support, because he did not fail the humanistic principles dictated by religion and God.

Since in this unfortunate B&H, such as it is, literally everything is politicised, especially human misery, and even religion, it is almost normal that Bishop Komarica is lonely in his stand. The war has divided and roughly separated not only territories and people, but also the three predominant religions in B&H. But what makes matters even worse is that nationalistic policies have greatly manipulated and abused (each one its own) religion, which implies that ultimately, the question of reconstruction and construction of houses of prayer is not mainly a religious, but almost solely a political question. In three (ethnically and religiously homogenised) political, religious, territorial enclaves in B&H, in religious competition (by intensified construction of excessively large and luxurious places of worship) the ruling primitive political clans brutally compete, indeed always in the name of “their own” people and “protection” of their religious and ethnic interests.

And what is in fact the situation like with this “protection” an these “interests” is best illustrated and proved by the current social picture of this country. Literally the entire “prosperity” which the current politicians in power like to brag with is founded on donations, humanitarian aid and loans of the international community and the standard of living of at least 95 per cent of the population is characterised either by hunger or bare survival. There are few examples in any (ethnic or territorial) respect which would make this dramatic social picture more favourable. This sad and crushing social picture is additionally aggravated by an enormous number of refugees and displaced people (who still just dream about return to their homes), an enormous number of the unemployed and an enormous number of the injured and ailing, who are completely deprived of their rights, which makes the global picture of general misery even darker.

Why is then, when everything is as it is, this general misery substituted (or more precisely, publicly screened) by showy and often hysterical construction of expensive and unnaturally grandiose religious buildings? There is no other answer to this except that this is in fact the final phase of nationalistic war-mongering and political goals which were conceived and designed a long time ago: ethnic and religious homogenisation of ethnic groups and final defining of ethnic territories in B&H, regardless of how many of these people and how much of this territory is left. In such an ambience, provocative religious buildings with their domineering status and symbolism are intended to unambiguously show “what belongs to whom”. And in the already existing ambience of mostly primitive spirit and mentality, religion (that is what the Balkan “leaders” of ethnic groups and religions think) is the most efficient means for taking full control of their subjects, persons in distress, homeless and poor.

OPIUM FOR THE HUNGRY AND MISERABLE

When recently elite independent newspaper in B&H Federation, first Dani and later on Oslobodjenje, published two marked articles with indicative titles (“Luxurious Mosques for Hungry People” and “Luxurious Mosques for Poor Believers”) it did not only appear as if the same author had written them, with the same critical stand, but it was about something that is evident to every person at any moment and everywhere in Sarajevo and everywhere else where the majority nationalistic party, Party of Democratic Action (SDA) is in power. Abnormally big and luxurious (which also means fabulously expensive) mosques and religious buildings are simply cropping up here, there and everywhere, as a rule on elite locations, often in disproportion with the chosen urban ambience, but they are springing up incessantly and irrepressibly, before the very eyes of the hungry and worn out Bosniac people. All this is happening under the watchful eye of Bosniac political and religious power-wielders and under unselfish financial auspices of rich dignitaries from various Islamic countries, all in the name of concern for protection of religion of Bosnian Muslims – the Bosniacs. While Bosniac refugees, displaced, homeless people are suffering in humiliating accommodation in tents, instead of reconstructing their destroyed or damaged houses and apartments, their arrogant “leaders” and haughty rich Islamic “donors” are offering them mosques and other religious buildings like opium, as a substitute for the tragedy they experienced and hope that they will ever return to normal life they has almost completely and almost for ever gone up in thin air. None of them will ever be able to find out how much money has so far been spent (and how much will be spent for all those planned to be constructed) on these expensive monuments of political and religious contemptuousness of their rich, powerful and arrogant “spiritual fathers”.

To one of the mentioned critical articles (Luxurious Mosques for Poor Believers, Oslobodjenje, 11 May 2000), a high Saudi Arabian Committee for aid to B&H which financed construction of the enormous mosque in Sarajevan suburb called Alipasino polje, reacted unusually sharply on a whole page of Oslobodjenje. With the customary rhetoric about “enemies of Islam” they reacted as if they were owners of this state and the Bosniac people and as if they were entitled to “fashion concern”, determine priorities in reconstruction and create urbanisation of the country. The Islamic Religious Community and the political leadership of SDA always stand up in defence of this blackmailing, exclusively religious form of “aid to B&H”. The easiest pretext given in answer to any critical remark about construction of these expensive places of worship is always that the donors wish to give money only for them! There is, however, no sensible reply to the question why the old demolished or damaged places of worship (and there are over one thousand of them in B&H) are not reconstructed first, especially because they, among other, have a significant value as cultural heritage.

Even people who do not know their calculus can easily calculate how many demolished or damaged Bosniac houses and apartments could have been constructed and reconstructed for so many million of dollars spent in construction of numerous expensive mosques and how many of these unfortunate people could have returned to B&H and their homes. The political leadership of SDA and its loud religious and political demagogues are criticising almost every day the international community for failing to give more money for return, that is, for reconstruction of homes. They never speak about what they themselves are doing to find the necessary money. And they never bother to even try to give an answer to the question why they agree to such blackmailing donations of Islamic donors and why they do not convince them that at least for some time in this unfortunate country, the roof above people’s heads and bare existence will be the most important thing.

There can be no doubt that every normal Bosniac who for years cannot return home and who is for years suffering in the worst refugee camps far from his country and his home would without hesitation certainly say what is more important for him: a roof above his head or luxurious mosque. But such Bosniacs are not consulted about anything, although they would also certainly fully approve of the quoted statement of Bishop Franjo Komarica from Banja Luka: first homes for the people, and the churches can wait. And nobody would say that the Bishop from Banja Luka is not as good a believer as the Reis or the Metropolitan Bishop, and that he cares less for his religion and his own people. This is simply a matter of a moral vision with which religion is offered to the people – as a vague veil for covering up one’s own responsibility for their destiny or as a humanistic appeal and challenge for true encouragement of every man in tragic circumstances and dirty temptations.

A true believer can pray his God anywhere, in every place and at any time, but he cannot live in a house of God.



Original article