A SANCTUARY IN POST-CONFLICT SPACE: THE BAPTIST CHURCH AS A ‘MIDDLE OPTION’ IN BANOVINA, CROATIA
One of the observable aspects of social change during the transition period in most post-socialist countries is the revival of religion. The resurgence of churches has accompanied national revival and in some countries it is also connected to a growing post-socialist nationalism. This article focuses on the development of different –‘transnational’– religious options in an area of ethnic conflict by presenting a case study of the post-war growth of the Baptist Church in the Banovina region in Croatia, close to the Bosnian border. Research results are based on halfstructured interviews with church representatives and members.
The research shows that there has been a considerable post-war expansion of the Baptist Church in the Banovina region, and that it is mainly ethnic Serbs and people from mixed marriages who have joined the Church. Many of them have a background as communists. For them, neither the Catholic Church, which is regarded as a Croatian church, nor the Serbian Orthodox Church are viable religious options. Instead, there are three factors that make the ‘Baptist option’ attractive. First, it is grounded in the historical tradition of the Baptist Church in this region and on memories and myths activated in the war and post-war periods. Second, the Baptist Church has made a middle transnational option available in an ethnically mixed area. As such it attracts those who are searching for a niche of neutrality in an ethnically strongly divided region characterized by conflict. Third, the considerable humanitarian work and help of organizations related to the Baptist Church during and after the war not only added in the eyes of many people in need to its image elements of existential shelter, but also brought the Church out of the shadows and made it more ‘visible’– thereby improving its former reputation as an obscure sect.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Heidelberg, Berliner Straße 50, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany., Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Geography, University of Zagreb, Marulićev trg 19, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia., Email: [email protected]
Publication date: 2009-03-01