The number of Roman Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), most of whom are ethnic Croats, has more than halved compared to 30 years ago, dwindling to a mere 350,000, BiH’s bishops warned in a document carried by the Croatian news agency Hina.
“During the last 30 years, more than a half of Catholics, which means Croats, have disappeared, more precisely around 54.6%,” the document said.
The bishops said the situation was particularly difficult in Republika Srpska, one of BiH’s two autonomous entities created by the 1995 Dayton peace accord, populated mostly by ethnic Serbs. The other is the Bosniak-Croat federation.
“Before the war, there were 220,000 Catholics in Republika Srpska, and now they number only 15,000, or about 2.4% of RS’s total population,” the bishops said.
In the federation, “Croats represent only 22.4% of the population,” the document writes. Among the reasons, the bishops listed the slow and difficult return of refugees from the 1991-95 war, low birth rates, emigration, high unemployment and corruption, but also political reasons.
“Many are frustrated by the unjust division of BiH into two entities, with a governing structure that is detrimental to Croats in both of them,” the bishops said, urging the international community to help change Bosnia’s electoral law ahead of the national ballot called for 2 October.
Talks between Croat and Bosniak officials on electoral reform have led nowhere and the West, including the EU, insists that the October election should be held under the old law that Croats consider unfair.