Wednesday, February 13, 2008


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (February 13,2008) – Among the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all Bosnian citizens in Article II of Annex Four of the Dayton Agreement are freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; freedom of expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association with others,the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said.

Recently, certain educational authorities in Canton Sarajevo have apparently proposed introducing religious instruction into the kindergarten curriculum. While in theory there is nothing wrong with this, beyond of course adding a subject to the pre-school curriculum that most experts would contend ought not to be taught until students grow much older, it does raise questions about exclusivity and discrimination, for reports also suggest that such instruction would be purely Islamic in orientation,the OSCE stated yesterday.

In a multi-national and multi-confessional country such as Bosnia, this threatens to work against the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the country’s own constitution, which also states that: “the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms provided for in this Article or in the international agreements listed in Annex I to this Constitution shall be secured to all persons in Bosnia without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status,” the OSCE said.

In addition, the newly adopted Framework Law on Pre-school Education states: “pre-school institutions shall develop, promote and respect national and religious freedom, customs, tolerance and the culture of dialogue,” the OSCE said.

In the interests of fairness and of compliance with the current legal and constitutional order, it would seem only logical for the cantonal authorities to introduce religious instruction into the canton’s pre-schools in all the faiths and confessions represented in Bosnia.In the interests of proper pedagogy, however, it would also seem more sensible to postpone such instruction until such time as students are of an age and intellectual maturity to be able properly to receive it,the OSCE said.

We are therefore moved to suggest that this country’s political and religious leaders focus their energies and efforts instead on something that is of fundamental important to their future – that is, on transforming the country’s pre-school, primary and secondary schools from institutions that emphasise the differences among peoples into institutions that foster a sense that the citizens of this country can have more than one identity – they can be, for instance, bridge-jumpers, Mostarians, Bosniacs or Croats or Serbs, and Bosnians at one and the same time – and still share a sense of common allegiance to the Bosnian state,the OSCE said.

Unless it cultivates and creates this sense of belonging among its citizens, regardless of their race or religion or culture, Bosnia has little prospect of taking its desired place in the larger European family of democratic states,the OSCE warned.

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