“Ethnic Cleansing as Religious Practice: Religion, Ethnicity, and Political Conflict in Bosnia During the War,” by Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon

wiinikka-lydonMy essay will provide an example, using the now classic case of the Bosnian War, of how religious practice, particularly Christian practice, can adversely affect a political crisis, as well as open up opportunities for how religion can work to ease political conflict. Specifically, I examine four ways that ethnic cleansing was a religious practice during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Through this examination, I show there was a moral logic and divine command ethic at work, where understandings of conversion—that is, the Christian practice of evangelism—were related conceptually and practically to ethnic cleansing, so that cleansing was at times a corollary practice of evangelism in that specific context. This can help us better understand the central, motivating role that religious imaginaries and practices had in the war. Even though scholars have conducted important and extensive analyses of the role of religion and genocide in Bosnia, we have yet to explicitly frame the conflict in this way.

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