The President of the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, on Wednesday sent an open letter to Banja Luka Bishop Franjo Komarica after Komarica compared the killings at Bleiburg with the suffering of Croats in Banja Luka during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, when local Croats were exposed to mass persecution and killing. 

Dodik's open letter, forwarded to the local media, says that with his latest statement the bishop "has crossed the line of tolerance" which he said both of them "are obliged to maintain", noting that until now he had refrained from similar reactions even though he had reason to react.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday why he served Mass at Bleiburg on May 14, Banja Luka's Roman Catholic bishop said that he went there to pay respect to innocent victims, warning that the war-time events in Banja Luka, which had been almost entirely cleansed of non-Serbs, were being persistently ignored.

"This here is Bleiburg.... that is what I wanted to say at Bleiburg... Go to Banja Luka and take a look, Bleiburg is there. Where are Banja Luka residents, why were they killed, why have they been denied the right to their identity? They have no right to their place of origin. That's Bleiburg for me," Komarica said, adding that it was time to take off masks and admit the full truth about all crimes.

In his open letter, Dodik said that with his statement Komarica hit a raw nerve, namely the issue of victims of Ustasha crimes committed in World War II, whom he described as "the holiest martyrs."

"You served Mass for the victims of Bleiburg, which is your right. I am confident that you know that some of the Bleiburg victims were responsible for our suffering in the areas of Mt Kozara, Banja Luka and Donja Gradina but that none of our victims were responsible for the death of people for whom you served Mass at Bleiburg. Therefore your comparison of Banja Luka and Bleiburg is horrible, to say the least," Dodik said, without replying to Komarica's question as to who killed and expelled non-Serbs from Banja Luka and why.

He also said that he understood Komarica's concern about the present and future of his people and was willing to help him in that regard but that he was not sure the bishop was helping his people with such statements.  

Resenting Komarica's "harsh words", Dodik said that the past could not be changed but that "the future can be significantly impacted through care, hard work and tolerance."

The dignitary has also warned on many occasions about a deteriorating status of Catholics in his diocese, noting that before the 1992-1995 war, 220,000 Catholic Croats lived in the area which is now under the control of the Bosnian Serbs, while now only an estimated 13,000 have remained.

More than 400 Roman Catholics, mostly Croats, and four priests have been killed in their homes by Serb armed groups in the Banja Luka region, north-western Bosnia, during 1992-1995, according to a statement issued by Banja Luka Diocese officials in 1995. Thirty seven (37) churches were blown up or burnt, 17 churches heavily devastated, and another 21 suffered minor kinds of damage in the Banja Luka area in this period, according to the statement. Besides, 24 houses of the Roman Catholic parishes were pulled down or ruined. Many Catholics were physically abused, and several hundreds of them were taken by force for hard labour on fronts. These acts were committed in a Bosnian area that has not been directly exposed to war, according to the statement. The statement underlines that Serb authorities in Banja Luka have never taken any action to find perpetrators of such crimes and to protect innocent people.

Related stories

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.