Bosnia and Herzegovina is a nation that has several religions, including Islam, Christianity (predoominately Orthodox and Roman Catholic), independent religions, and atheists. Atheists refer to the non-religious members of the population. The country has experienced frequent wars that have seen changes in the composition of the faiths. However, the Islam community is still dominant faith in the country. There are three predominant ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. Bosniaks are mainly adherents of the Islamic religion, while Serbs are more likely to be followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Croats are mostly Roman Catholic.
During the Ottoman rule, Muslims from other countries escaping wars migrated into the Bosnia and Herzegovina, thereby increasing the population of Muslims in the country. Another factor that led to increased Islam population was the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam religion.At the end of the Ottoman rule, Muslims had the largest population. Currently, Islam is still the most popular religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a 51% following. The majority of the Muslims are Bosniaks who also form the largest portion of the entire country's population (48%). Although the citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina is known as a Bosnian, in the country there is a distinction between a Herzegovinian and a Bosnian and is often maintained a regional but not an ethnic identity. Intermarriage between different ethnic groups was common before 1990, but extremist politics that was associated with Milosevic stirred distrust which led to ethnic cleansing which left millions dead or homeless.
Eastern Orthodox Christians
Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the second largest religious grouping in Bosnia and Herzegovina after Islam, and the most widespread denomination of Christian religion in the country. When the Ottomans conquered the Kingdom of Bosnia in around 1463, it created radical changes in the religious structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The period was the time when Islam was taking root, but also Orthodox Christianity was also spreading into the country, and Sultan Mehmed promised to protect the Orthodox Christianity. Therefore, the Orthodox Church enjoyed some support from the Ottoman rule. The Ottomans also introduced some Orthodox Christian followers into Bosnia from other Balkans region. Orthodox Christians currently form 31% of the total population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many of these Orthodox members are mainly Serbs.
Roman Catholics were not very common in Bosnia's past. However, they have long had a presence in the region, though in smaller numbers. There were around 50,000 Catholics at most during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Many Roman Catholics, alongside large numbers of Orthodox Christians, fled during the Ottoman Rule. They fled to Croatia and Slovenia where they settled. Current statistics show that the number of Roman Catholics remains lower compared to Muslims and Orthodox Christians. The Catholics constitutes 15% of the total population most of whom are of Croat ethnic group.
Other Religions and Atheists
During the Ottoman rule, other religions now seen had largely not been established within the country. However, with the end of Ottoman reign, some other Protestant religions increased due to foreigners' entry into the country. A small part of the population identifies themselves as non-religious or atheist, and they form 3% of the total population. These communities are among the marginalized minority in the country.
Religion in Bosnian Society and Culture
Religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina has undergone many changes over the years, and it is part of the daily life of many of the citizens, having a direct effect on their social and cultural outlooks. There has been discrimination based on religious belief and even religious intolerance. Some religious objects have been used to cause religious or ethnic tension and conflicts and use for political expediency.
Religious Demographics Of Bosnia And Herzegovina
|Rank||Belief System||Adherents' Share of Population|
|2||Eastern Orthodox Christian||31%|
|5||Atheist or Agnostic||1%|
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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