Serbia: Religious Freedom Survey, February 2009

February 26, 2009

Author: Drasko Djenovic

Source: Forum 18 News Service

In its survey analysis of freedom of thought, conscience or belief in Serbia, Forum 18 News Service notes that the most serious remains violent attacks, especially on Jehovah's Witness and Adventist property. The numbers of these attacks have been declining, and a crucial factor in this has been positive changes in media portrayals of non-Serbian Orthodox communities. Gaining legal status is difficult for communities defined by the Religion Law as "non-traditional" who must apply for recognition, and may face apparently arbitrary denials of status. This leads to practical problems for some communities, such as an inability to employ people. Restitution of confiscated property is a problem for most religious communities, including the Serbian Orthodox Church which suffered most communist-era confiscations. Legally, restitution of Jewish property confiscated in the Second World War is also difficult. Education is a sensitive issue, with problems such as negative portrayal of "non-traditional" communities in school religious education.

According to the latest 2002 census, 96 per cent of the Serbian population of almost 7.5 million people claims a religious affiliation. Roughly 84 per cent belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church, 5.5 per cent to the Catholic Church, 3.6 per cent to the Islamic Faith Community, and 1.1 per cent to various Protestant churches and religious communities such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'is, and Hare Krishna devotees.

Violent attacks

The most serious problem affecting religion or belief in Serbia has been violent attacks, along with the problem of the authorities having shown a lack of willingness to catch and convict the attackers.