July 10, 2015

How Bosnian Muslims view Christians 20 years after Srebrenica massacre

Bosnia Srebrenica War Crimes Genocide Commemoration
Family members mourn over coffins in Srebrenica on July 9. One hundred thirty-six bodies found in mass grave sites in eastern Bosnia will be reburied on 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. (Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

This weekend marks 20 years since the Srebrenica massacre – the killing of 7,000-8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in a Bosnian town that had been designated a United Nations safe haven.

The worst atrocity to take place in Europe since World War II occurred during a brutal three-year war following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The war was fought largely along ethno-religious lines, among predominantly Orthodox Christian Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.

The massacre continues to stir political passions today. On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned the action as a “crime of genocide”; 10 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution.

Muslims' Views in Bosnia-Herzegovina 20 Years After Srebrenica MassacreIn 2010, Muslims made up about 45% of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s population, a slightly smaller share than that of Christians (52%), according to Pew Research Center estimates. And a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims conducted in late 2011 found indications of both understanding and tension between Muslims and Christians in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Of the 38 countries where the question was asked, Bosnia-Herzegovina is the only one outside of sub-Saharan Africa where at least half of Muslims (51%) say they know “some” or “a great deal” about Christian beliefs and practices. A majority of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina (59%) also say Islam and Christianity have a lot in common; Bosnian Muslims who say they know at least something about Christianity are considerably more likely than those with less knowledge to believe the two faiths have a lot in common.

About one-in-five Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina (18%) say they attend interfaith meetings, which were recently promoted by Pope Francis during a trip to Sarajevo. Elsewhere in Southern and Eastern Europe, roughly one-in-ten or fewer Muslims say they attend such gatherings, including 6% in Kosovo and Albania and 8% in Russia.

Amid these signs of interfaith tolerance and engagement, however, community divisions remain. Relatively few Bosnian Muslims count non-Muslims among their close friends: Roughly nine-in-ten Bosnian Muslims (93%) say most, if not all, of their close friends share their faith.

Similarly, few Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina are comfortable with the idea of their son or daughter marrying outside the faith. Fewer than one-in-five Bosnian Muslims say they would be comfortable with either a son (16%) or daughter (14%) marrying a Christian. Elsewhere in the region, openness to marrying outside the faith is higher. For example, at least half of Muslims in Russia (52%) and Albania (77%) say they would be comfortable with their son marrying a Christian.

Bosnia-Herzegovina had a high level of social hostilities involving religion in 2013, the most recent year analyzed, according to an ongoing series of reports by the Pew Research Center. For example, in August 2013, three Serbs reportedly attacked four Muslims on their way to mosque in the town of Zvornik on the holiday Eid al-Fitr.

Correction: An earlier version of the map mislabeled Ukraine as Belarus.

Topics: Eastern Europe, Europe, Religious Beliefs and Practices, Christians and Christianity, Muslims and Islam, Russia

  1. Photo of Angelina E. Theodorou

    is a research analyst focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Nikola Perkovic2 years ago

    Albanians have commited horrible war crimes of all sorts and ethnicly cleansed 200 000 Serb civilians from Kosovo after which they started to destroy Serbian churches, graves, monuments etc.

  2. Nikola Perkovic2 years ago

    Russia and Albania in the same region? I think you confused Russia with Serbia… Some experts you are.

  3. Gina2 years ago

    Hmm..I am somewhat surprised by the responses on whether the son/daughter marrying a Christian would pose a unease with the parents. Namely, as a Bosnian Muslim, I would be uncomfortable with my daughter marrying a Serb given that 17 members of her family were killed by the Serbs and would certainly answer so, but I would have no issue/discomfort whatsoever in her marrying a foreigner, for example of any religion. How was the question asked?

    1. David Kent2 years ago

      Thanks for your interest. The question phrasing was this, followed by four possible answers to choose from: Q37. How comfortable would you be if a son of yours someday married a Christian? Would you be very comfortable, somewhat comfortable, not too comfortable or not at all comfortable? (Q38 changed “son” to “daughter”). Hope that helps.

  4. Tom2 years ago

    The Serbians were feed a heavy dose of propaganda. Day after day for a long period of time. Some had coexsisted as neighbors yet turn on them. Neuroscientists are have been studying this. Propaganda is seen in many forms. Although suttley even in political elections. Be aware.

  5. waseem2 years ago

    see Karen if u don’t know what’s written in Koran you can’t say stuff like that…. why don’t you find out yourself what’s written in the Koran.

  6. GRACE MCGARVIE2 years ago

    Thank you for your objective and thorough research.

  7. Isabelle2 years ago

    This survey is very imprecise. The catch all category, “Christians” obscures an important distinction. Serbians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, and do not recognize the Pope as anything other than the Bishop of Rome. Croatians, however, are Roman Catholics. The three groups speak different languages and often see themselves as practicing different religions. In this instance, the violence was committed by Serbians (Orthodox, like the Russians) against an Muslim Bosnians. Serbians and Croatians also have a history of violence against one another.

    1. Nikola Perkovic2 years ago

      They speak the same language and Bosniaks have commited crimes against Serbs as well. Serbs are an ethic group, they do not identify ethnicity with any faith and will often tell you that Bosniaks are islamised Serbs.

  8. Charles2 years ago

    I would have been interested in some of the geopolitic implications. For example, to ask what religion Bosnian Muslims considered Serbs to be, and how they felt about Serbs. And then to ask BM what religion they considered Americans to be, and then to ask how they felt about Americans, etc.

  9. Saul2 years ago

    Christians and Muslims share a great deal of beliefs. The world would be a much better place if we can look pass religion and show love to one another as God commanded.

    1. Karen2 years ago

      Except for the part The Koran teaches nothing about Universal Love.
      Why say “look past religion” and then say “do as God commanded” ?

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      God commanded so much more than loving each other. To know and believe in Jesus Christ as God is eternal life and remission of sins, no other faith preaches that except Christianity, so how can you say look past religion or as others say all religions are the same. Even the reason for loving others is different, as Christians we love through the power of Jesus Christ, in imitation of Jesus Christ for the glory of God the Father- what other religion does that?

  10. victoria2 years ago

    It is obvious that Britain wants to put attention on Serbia in order to redirect Islamic terrorists to attack Serbia instead the British soil. Why to travel so far when murderers of Moslems are much nearer. British are far greater murderers through human history,there is no comparation.

    1. REally2 years ago

      Keep living in the past and you will miss the future.

      1. Earle2 years ago

        Ignore the past then you don’t know where your present is and your future will be shaped by your ignorance.

        1. James Boyd1 year ago

          ‘Not living’ in the past isn’t the same as ignoring it. You can draw insight from the past without adhering to the logic of the blood-feud.

    2. don2 years ago

      Well said.