FaithWorld

Catholic schools form rare oasis amid Bosnia’s ethnic strife

daria1I was caught by surprise recently when a Western diplomat told me that Serb students were in majority in the Catholic high school in Banja Luka,  a town that had become predominantly Serb after persecution of other ethnic groups during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Banja Luka is the largest town of the Serb Republic, which along with the Muslim-Croat federation makes up postwar Bosnia . (Photo: A Catholic school in Sarajevo, 25 Nov 2009/Danilo Krstanovic)

Then I learned that Bosnian Muslims account for 80 percent of students in the Catholic school in the western town of Bihac, where Muslims are in majority. It turned out that the situation is similar in all seven Catholic centres opened across Bosnia during and after the war. These schools paradoxically became rare multi-ethnic oases in the country where public schools are largely dominated by a majority ethnic group.

This got me wondering why the Catholic Church wanted to open school in Banja Luka, for example, the town in which only seven percent of 44,000 Croat Catholics that had lived  before the war remained to live today.  The result is a feature that just ran on our newswire. That tells the story, but let me tell you a bit more about the background.

“I am a Banja Luka native, my family had lived here for over 300 years and I regard myself obliged towards this town and towards Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Banja Luka Bishop Franjo Komarica, a driving force behind the opening of the Catholic school in the Serb-dominated town. “I don’t have the right to feel less worthy for being what I am – a Croat by ethnicity and a Catholic by religion,” said Komarica, who had stayed in Banja Luka throughout the war and fought for the return of Croats in the town.

komaricaOur goal is to bring people closer again, to bring back mutual respect and remove unnecessary barriers imposed onto us by politicians,” he said.

El Salvador honors Jesuit priests slain during civil war

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(Photo: A painting commemorating six slain Jesuit priests,16 Nov 2009/Luis Galdamez)

El Salvador has honored six Jesuit priests killed by the army 20 years ago in one of the most notorious atrocities of the country’s long and vicious civil war.Leftist President Mauricio Funes, the first leader from a party of former Cold War rebels that fought in the conflict, granted the priests El Salvador’s highest honor posthumously in a ceremony on Monday.U.S.-backed soldiers shot the priests at their home at a local university on the night of Nov. 16, 1989, to silence their strong criticism of rights abuses committed by the army during the 12-year civil war that ended in 1992.  Five of the priests were Spanish and one was Salvadorean.Read the whole story here. More on this at … Vatican RadioBBC (photo essay)Catholic News ServiceLos Angeles TimesNational Jesuit News.

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from Photographers' Blog:

Those left behind: The legacy of Arlington’s Section 60

Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  George Orwell

Veteran’s Day is a time to remember “All gave some....Some gave all.”

Before reaching the new gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery’s ‘Section 60’ it’s easy to recognize why a simple, quilted, patch of green grass and white stones buried alongside the quiet banks of the Potomac River troubles the heart.

War: is it the ultimate test of faith?

faithThere are many things that will test a person’s religious faith and war is among the strongest. “Faith Under Fire: An Army Chaplain’s Memoir”, which will be published this week, is Roger Benimoff’s moving account of his battle with the demons of war that almost cost him his faith and his family. He did two tours in Iraq and you can read my interview with him here.

The Iraq war of course remains fraught with religious overtones. Former U.S. President George W. Bush saw many of his policies as driven by his Christian faith (and aimed at his conservative evangelical base); Iraq itself has been riven by religious and sectarian conflict; and many people of faith question the morality of the U.S.-led war there, now six years old.

When I asked Benimoff if the Iraq war has been worth all of the sacrifice, he became very emotional and found that it was a question he is still wrestling with. As he describes in his book, asking such hard questions lead him to question his own faith and made him angry at times with God (while he also battled with post-tramautic stress disorder or PTSD).