Friday, 20 March 2015

Faith-Inspired Genocidists To Face Trial

Bosniak victims of faith-based Christian genocidists
BBC News - Serbia arrests seven over 1995 Srebrenica massacre

News that the former Yugoslavian states of Bosnia and Serbia are cooperating over war-crimes committed during the Bosnian war marks a welcome replacement by humanist standards of the murderous faith-based morality which led to the Bosnian genocide of Muslims by Orthodox Christian neo-Nazi fundamentalists, and acceptance that those who committed these atrocities weren't nationalist heroes but murderous thugs whose religion told them killing people for having the 'wrong' religion was the right thing to do.

In many of these systematic atrocities they were aided and encouraged by Orthodox Christian priests who told them this is exactly what Jesus wanted them to do. The Greek volunteers who rushed to participate in this genocide, often at the behest of Orthodox priests, went back to Greece where they formed the core of the quasi-criminal, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party.

Bosnia and Serbia are both candidate states for European Union membership and so have to bring the rights of their citizens up to the standard required by the ECHR. The EU is unlikely to admit a state whose government is harbouring or protecting genocidal war criminals, as Serbia once protected it's former president, Slobodan Milošević and it's war criminals, Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić.

Incidentally, and nothing to do with this blog, one of the great things about the EU is that it is the first expanding superstate in history to have autonomous states on its borders begging to be admitted and to be able to set terms and conditions for entry. It's done this not by threats or coercion but by building a state where talking has replaced conflict and where the objective is to build a secular, democratic state based on tolerance and mutual respect and where the fruits of economic prosperity are spread as widely as possible. A state where people looked at centuries of conflict and two devastating wars in half a century and decided we were better than that. No wonder the right-wing hate it.

Now Serbian police have arrested another seven suspected genocidists responsible for the massacre of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys over three days at Srebrenica, described as the worst genocide in Europe since the Holocaust. The massacre came towards the end of the Bosnian war when 20,000 Bosniak refugees had fled to Srebrenica to escape advancing Serbian forces attempting to forcibly prevent Serbia cesseeding from the disintegrating former Yugoslavia which Serbia had dominated, treating other constituent states as part of a Greater Serbia.

The Balkans is a hotchpotch of different people with different, mutually hostile religions and tribal blood feuds harking back to the early Middle Ages with wrongs, either real or imaginary, still to be avenged. The same Serbo-Croat language, for example, will be written in the Latin alphabet by Catholics and in Cyrillic by Orthodox Christians. Then there are Muslims who are either Turkic people from the Ottoman Empire or Muslim converts, as remnant people from when the Ottoman Turks crossed the Bosphorus, took Constantinople so destroying the remains of the Byzantine Empire and bringing to a close the long slow decline of the old Roman Empire, annexed Greece and tried to move up into the Balkans.

And of course Greece has always been hostile to the 'barbarians' to the north, some of whom were Catholic and even going back to the days when Alexander the Great's father, the upstart barbarian, Philip of Macedonia conquered ancient Greece. Nowadays, the fact that the northern province of Greece is called Macedonia, as is the southern province of former Yugoslavia, which lays claim to all of Macedonia, means the emergent state from the wreckage of Yugoslavia had to adopt the cumbersome name of 'The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' to avoid being invaded by Greece - over a name!

Battle of Kosovo, 1398. Deciding who has the best imaginary friend.
Meanwhile, Serbia tried to cling on to Kosovo even though the Kosovan people, who are mostly ethnic Albanians, wanted independence, simply because Serbia regards Kosovo as their historic fatherland, having defeated the Ottomans on the 'Field of Blackbirds' in Kosovo in 1389 - hence their chequered black and white flag. Added to the the mess that is former Yugoslavia we have to add in Albania, Romania and Bulgaria, each of which has large populations of different ethnicity, and perhaps we should add the former Soviet Republic of Moldova which even has a narrow stip of land called Transnistria the inhabitants of which still regard as the Soviet Union!

And almost all of this tension and division, mutual mistrust and hostility is religious in origin. At no point in the history of the Balkans can religion ever be accused of bringing about peace, reconciliation and harmony. The entire history of the region has been one of religious leaders fomenting civil strife to further their own ambitions or to safeguard their precious privileges, or of political and military warlords using religion to unite their own forces against an enemy with the wrong religion, and so a long history of real or perceived threats, mistrust and suspicion have become culturally ingrained and part of the cultural identity of the different people, each believing their god hates the same people they hate.

The Bosnian genocide that these seven people are to be tried for are simply the latest in a long line of faith-based genocides, and there are still people in Bosnia who regard these thugs as heroes and liberators. But should we be surprised when repugnant religious apologists such as William Lane Craig can come up with a theological justifications for genocide that actually cast the genocidists in the role of victims deserving of our sympathy, simply by cherry-picking convenient texts from a holy book and giving them the necessary spin? Once you've decided a god is telling you to carry out these atrocities it become easy to think of yourself as a hero doing necessary work, and easy to absolve yourself of any blame for your deeds. Moral responsibility is abdicated because God said it was okay.

And of course, the Balkans remains amongst the poorest and most under-developed parts of Europe, just as we see in almost any part of the world where religious fundamentalism is a normal part of every-day life and the churches involve themselves in the lives of ordinary people at every opportunity and meddle in government whenever they can.

The sooner these states can all be brought up to basic EU standards of human rights with guarantees against discrimination within a secular European Union, and the sooner religion is discarded in favour of secular humanism as is happening in the rest of the EU, the sooner the people there can look forward to building a better future for their grandchildren than avenging the wrongs of their grandparents in the name of a genocidal god ever gave them.

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