Francis in Sarajevo

From the November 2015 Print Edition

On Saturday, June 6, Pope Francis ­visited Sarajevo, the ­capital of partitioned Bosnia-Hercegovina. Although treated by international media as a typical papal tour, the event strengthened the potential of the Croat Catholic hierarchy in Bosnia to serve as agents of peace and reconciliation. This is notable in a nation torn asunder, during the 1992–95 Bosnian war, between Bosnian Muslims (also called “Bosniaks”), Bosnian Croat Catholics, and Bosnian Serbian Orthodox Christians. To an outsider, this heated and complex religious landscape is often difficult to understand.The pope’s short stay, following visits by Pope John Paul II in 1997 and 2003, was popular with the 300,000-plus residents of the city. Sarajevo has been overwhelmingly Muslim since the 1992–95 war shattered the country and caused an influx of refugees to the Bosnian metropolis. Muslim as well as Catholic clergy and theologians welcomed Pope Francis as a beloved fellow man of God. Bosnia-­Hercegovina is a country where Muslims and Catholics have more in common than might divide them, and for that reason alone the papal trip was significant, particularly given the contrast with current Muslim–­Christian strife in the Middle East. Most important, Bosnian Catholic Croats, like the Bosniak Muslims, were targeted by Serbian aggression during the 1992–95 war. Continue Reading »

Evangelicals in the World of Islam

From Web Exclusives

The author of this book, a professor of history at the University of Delaware, is an academic of diverse interests, having published volumes on the maritime communities of colonial Massachusetts and the origins of fervent Protestantism in the American South. She is also married to a retired Pentagon official who survived the terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001.

Junípero Serra

From First Thoughts

On September 23, at a mass in Washington, DC, Pope Francis is scheduled to canonize Blessed Junípero Serra (1713-84), the Franciscan founder of the Spanish missions in California.Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. Vatican representatives have pointed out that his sainthood will emphasize the diverse contributions to American identity of Hispanics and will recognize our Pacific as well as our Atlantic heritage. This point would seem to be politically significant at a moment when Republican Party leaders of Hispanic origin, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and with Hispanic family relations—e.g. Jeb Bush—are vying for their party’s presidential nomination. Continue Reading »

Famous Communists and Islam

From First Thoughts

For some time, an argument has been made that the liberal left, in refusing to examine the problems of Islam, has betrayed its Enlightenment roots. That is, while secular, feminist, and protective of free speech in dealing with its Western peers, the liberal left has been accused of abandoning its heritage in its quest for political correctness regarding Muslims. Continue Reading »

Mecca for Sale

From the February 2015 Print Edition

Mecca is threatened. The city is the sacred center of attention for all Muslims. It is the location of the qibla, or direction of prayer, and the destination for millions of participants in the annual hajj, the pilgrimage required for all Muslims who can afford it, at least once in their lives. But a remaking of Mecca is underway and has already destroyed much of the city’s unique historical and religious heritage.The damage to the city’s Islamic past is motivated by a doctrinal argument. Many locations in and around Mecca are linked to historical figures, and they have served as focal points for prayer. Wahhabi clerics who dominate the Saudi kingdom’s religious life strenuously oppose these devotions on the grounds that they dilute the worship of a single and unique Allah. A fatwa issued by the official Saudi body responsible for religious rulings states: Continue Reading »

Bosnian Muslims Celebrate an Islamic Christmas

From Web Exclusives

Most of the world’s Christians—as well as many non-believers—celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25. Members of the Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian, most Slavic Orthodox, and Georgian Orthodox churches, with some Greek Orthodox faithful, will mark the festival on January 7. The fourteen-day difference reflects the retention by certain Orthodox congregations of the Julian calendar, which was replaced by Gregorian reckoning in the majority of Orthodox societies early in the twentieth century. Continue Reading »

Is Latvia Putin’s New Target?

From Web Exclusives

In May 2014, I attended an interfaith conference in Kosovo where I met Janis Priede, an associate professor in the department of Oriental Studies at the University of Latvia, located in the national capital, Riga. Having watched, from the Balkans, the Russian annexation of Crimea and further attempted partition of Ukraine during the first half of the year, I expressed my concern to Prof. Priede that Latvia, a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), could be the next object of aggression by Vladimir Putin. He agreed. Continue Reading »

Trotsky the Fox

From Web Exclusives

With the publication of Trotsky: A Biography, Robert Service, a professor of Russian history at Oxford and an outstanding authority on the Russian Revolution, has completed a biographical trilogy treating the main architects of Soviet Communism… . Continue Reading »

What Happened at Medjugorje?

From Web Exclusives

In 1981, a year after the death of ex-Yugoslavia’s communist dictator, Josip Broz Tito, events in Medjugorje, a small town in Bosnia-Hercegovina, began to stir the Christian world. Six Croatian Catholic children-four girls and two boys, then aged from ten to sixteen-claimed to have experienced visions of the Virgin Mary. Even now, after twenty-eight years, three of the Medjugorje seers still report nightly visitations … Continue Reading »

Broken Promises

From the April 2006 Print Edition

“Never forget what happened here!” John Paul II demanded in 1993 when he visited Albania ” where, under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, the Communists were at their most ferocious in the suppression of religion. More than a dozen years later, the pope’s heartfelt warning seems . . . . Continue Reading »