During the 1990s Bosnia and Herzegovina was in a state of crisis, domestic tensions were at an all time high resulting in a country of unrest and extreme violence. There has been a common traditionalist viewpoint as to why these events occurred. However the traditionalist viewpoint is being challenged by revisionists who have a different outlook to why these events happened. The traditionalist viewpoint is that where conflict in Yugoslavia was a deep-rooted, subconscious animosity between the three different ethno-religious religions.
These different groups were defined by both their ethnicity and religion, forming the fundamental factors in the conflict. Although revisionist think rather, religion is a disputed fact of the cause for the conflicts, it rather took on a different connotation during the time in conflict. Religion represented one’s association with an ethnic group instead of the an ideology. Croats were defined as Catholics, the Serbians as Orthodox, and the Bosiaks as Muslim. Revisionists believe that it was conflict between ethnic groups that happened to have differing religious association and that they explained their acts of hate crime to religion.
Traditionalist perceive that the different religions in the region have always had a deep-seated hate for one another that continued to perpetuate the tensions until the war in Yugoslavia and ethnic conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This traditionalist concept was accepted by the majority of the western world contemporary to the time of conflict. Further support for this is illustrated in the following quotation from the United States president at the time, Bill Clinton, their hatreds were five hundred years old. This perpetuates the idea of a common traditionalist viewpoint, that the different religions and ethnic groups could never live in harmony with each other. However, the revisionist approach is that these ethnic groups did live together in harmony under a Communist government in Yugoslavia that was ruled by Josip Broz Tito and it was only that after the fall of this government that the ethnic and religious tensions began to rise. The communist government ideology is for there to be total equality in a society. Thus, during Tito’s rule he sought to limit the influence of religion within his country. However after Tito’s death Yugoslavia became a state of unrest, religious institutions became increasingly independent and gained political freedom; allowing them to enjoy a trend described by Leonard J. Cohen to be desecularization and increasing religiosity. The re-integration of religious institutions into Yugoslavian society leading up to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina when partnered with the attacks of religious symbols like such as, all mosques in Foa were blown up and the ruins razed to the ground as reported in a Judgment summary, Prosecutor v. Kunarac. This indicated that the re-integration of religion had a role in the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina.Often the topic of religion and its influence on a violent conflicts such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina is controversial with many differing viewpoints and theories. One theory of a traditionalist historian Vjekoslav Perica, believed that religion did had a heavy influence in conflict. He presented the idea of ethnoclericalism realated to the discord in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2003. Perica defined ethnoclericalism as the ethnically based nationhood and a nation church” meaning that the national church leaders would have an important role in the government. Which differed greatly for the previous socialist government that was established. Perca insinuated that the church leaders strongly pushed the association of religion with the different ethnic groups, claiming that the national churches became hallmarks of nationhood. He strongly believed that national churches of the Serbians, Croats and Bosiaks were instead of acting like theology based organizations acted as a self-serving nationalistic ideology. This theory strongly supports that religion had a significant role in the conflict, because the national churches pushed an anti-secular and a nationalistic agenda that brought upon more political discord. For instance, the nationalist church of the Serbian Orthodoxs repeatedly brought to the forefront of public debate that the WWII Jasenovac Ustasha death camp for ethnic Serbians was supported by the Catholic Croatians. Thus, bringing religious rifts to political debates. Ethnoclericalism is a compelling theory of how to understand the reasons of why religious symbolism was so prevalent in the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It explains how religious institutions, through supporting their own national identity, instigated the conflicts in the country. However Perica offers his theory up to skepticism, because it is highly unlikely that religious leaders were defaming the other religious institutions solely for the purpose of increasing there nationalist motives with the end goal of violence. Rather it was likely that the churches were trying to create a more prominent role for their church in a new political environment. Another historian who has a theory as to why the conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina had occurred is a more radical revisionist Mitja Velikonja. He has concluded that religious influence in the conflicts is limited. He clearly states that he considers the conflict to have no religious motivation that it was classical war of aggression with clear geopolitical goals. ALthough he understands that there was blatant religious symbolism used during the conflict but thought religious institutions allowed themselves to support the conflict instead of instigating it. This theory is an interesting approach to explain the conflicts however even if the churches did not directly instigate the violent acts they allowed it to happen using the different religions as justification. Religion played a important and influential role in the ethnic conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina however it wasn’t in a traditional role. It was more complex than the common traditionalist viewpoint of one religion against another. Rather it aligns more with a revisionist approach because ethnic groups had enlined themselves with a certain religious group. Thus, creating a sense of individual ethnic nationalism within the church. When the differing groups were committing acts of mass genocide against one another is was not solely for their religious affiliation. However religion was used as a justification as to why they committed the acts of violence.