Letter: Religious prejudice and the war in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Colin Welch ('Would a saint go marching in?', 19 April) appears determined to confirm the Muslim belief that Western inaction over Bosnia is motivated by religious prejudice. By suggesting that Aquinas would sympathise with the Christian factions simply because they are Christians, he invites the conclusion that sectarian solidarity should take precedence over feelings of common humanity.

It is a grave error to see Bosnia's tragedy as primarily a conflict between religions. Forty years of Communism left most Yugoslavs with little or no knowledge of their various faiths. Moreover, the Bosnian government, which Mr Welch would no doubt label the 'Muslim side', is in fact determinedly multi-ethnic: eight cabinet ministers are Muslim, six are Serbs and six Croats, a fact that makes nonsense of any attempt to portray the war as a purely sectarian dispute.

The war should instead be seen as a conflict between rival national visions, the one (advocated by Radovan Karadzic et al) being mono-ethnic, expansionist and chauvinistic, and the other (the elected government) committed to pluralism and a unitary Bosnian state in which all citizens, irrespective of ethnic affiliation, are free to live where they choose. Mr Welch is perhaps unaware that Mr Karadzic and his genocidal policies were bitterly denounced by Serbian Patriarch Pavel in his Easter message. It is not just the Muslims who are aware that this is a war between civilisation and barbarity. Mr Welch should beware his instincts.

Yours faithfully,



Information Centre

London, NW5

19 April