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Reach the last: The Bosniaks, Jesus in a melting pot

Gospel-rich media is sowing seeds in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a place where faith and ethnic identity are delicately intertwined.

RADIO, MEDIA & MISSIONS AUTOR 438/Joseph_Posner 11 DE JUNIO DE 2024 09:51 h
Street musician in Bihac, Bosnia. / Photo: [link]Partha Narasimhanl[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Romans 10:14-15



This month on Reach the Last, TWR explores the diverse Southern European nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a melting pot of faiths, ethnicities, and worldviews.



Bosnia, along with other former Yugoslav nations, has a long history of partnership with TWR.



In 1974, believers in Yugoslavia were among the first to receive the radio program Through the Scriptures, hosted by Ferdinand Ferdo Sadak.



In Bosnia and Herzegovina, faith and ethnic identity are delicately intertwined. As a result, one of the nation’s main people groups, the Bosniaks, are historically solely Islamic, having been converted during the Ottoman Empire period.



There is very little gospel-centred material available in the Bosniak language, meaning that this people group is classified as one of the world’s most unreached.



How does TWR answer the call?



 



The nation



For those who minister here, one common word describes their work: complex. Wars and ethnic division have often torn the nation apart, leading to much bloodshed and suffering, although a fragile peace exists today.



The state’s history is immensely rich. Centuries-old people groups, cultures, and worldviews all tenuously co-exist, leading to a nation which is infinitely interesting, yet volatile and tense.



[destacate]There is very little gospel-centred material available in the Bosniak language, meaning that this people group is classified as one of the world’s most unreached [/destacate] Interestingly, there are examples of interfaith co-operation, for example: an International Multi-religious and Intercultural Center (IMIC) in the Jewish quarter in Sarajevo.


According to the Pew Center, 1 the largest religion is Islam, followed by Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. The state constitution recognizes religious freedom, but this does not prevent division.



Protestant Christianity has been present for roughly 150 years, but Joshua Project  2 estimates that only 0.07% of the population are currently considered as evangelical.



According to Operation World,3 evangelical presence has increased but still only represents a miniscule proportion of the population.



There is a Baptist seminary in Sarajevo, and an Evangelical Alliance has also been founded.



Due to the small amount of those reached with the gospel, Joshua Project ranks the country as low on its progress scale.



Neno, a TWR partner through Ikonos ministries, estimates that there are likely not more than 1,000 believers in the nation. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2).



 



The partner



“The program has helped me understand the fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam in such a way that I am increasingly interested in exploring the Bible” – A TWR listener -



This social media comment is a small glimpse into the gospel impact produced by the Ikonos team, TWR’s main partner in Bosnia.



They produce gospel-rich content for people who have likely only known one worldview most of their lives.



[destacate]Protestant Christianity has been present for roughly 150 years, but only 0.07% of the population are currently considered as evangelical [/destacate] TWR greatly values its rich and fruitful partnership with Ikonos. Their head office is based in Belgrade, Serbia, from where their team diligently produces content designed for Bosnia and the surrounding Balkan nations.



Other Christian organizations who minister to Bosnia include Pioneers, Operation Mobilization and Novi Most International.



Having previously utilized mainly the medium-wave frequency, in recent times the ministry has shifted to an almost entirely digital focus. Christ-centred programs include:




  • The Way of Righteousness - An oversight of foundational Christian belief directed towards those with an Islamic worldview. Found in podcast form and on YouTube. This ministry has a dedicated Facebook and Instagram page.

  • Thru the Bible (TTB) - A daily chronological study on a portion of God’s word. Found on: YouTube, ttb.twr.org and other podcast platforms (Spotify, Google, Apple), it also has a dedicated Facebook and Instagram page.

  • Treasures of Wisdom - Spirit-led insight into key biblical themes and concepts. Available in podcast form, it has a dedicated web page (which is undergoing reconstruction).



Neno, from Sarajevo, serves as the social media outreach coordinator. He faithfully perseveres in a land of tough spiritual soil to oversee production.



Amid ethnic tension, resentment over bitter periods of war and economic difficulty, there are numerous challenges in reaching the Bosniaks.



The Ikonos team articulate their ministry as sowing seeds. For them, it is not realistic to expect mass conversion or a sudden upswing in church attendance.



This, they say, can be a sticking point for missionaries, who can fall into the trap of seeking fast results.





[photo_footer]  Of the 3.2 million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, nearly half identify with the nation’s primary religion: Islam. / Photo: IMB.org. [/photo_footer] 


 



The challenge



The Bosniaks have defined worldviews which have developed over generations. To embrace the gospel risks social and famiy marginalization. This problem is amplified when considering the tension between ethnicities.



While Bosniaks associate with Islam, the nation’s other groups: Croats and Serbs, are often nominal Christian. Therefore, the Bosniaks connote Christianity with a historically antagonistic people group.



Ethnic tension and a general lack of trust are obstacles for evangelism.



[destacate]To embrace the gospel risks social and family marginalization. Ethnic tension and a general lack of trust are also obstacles for evangelism[/destacate] The Ikonos team, and Neno specifically, are not discouraged. They understand and identify with the complexity and feel uniquely equipped to reach those around them.



Despite the difficulties, they continue to see encouraging feedback and comments on their work. These include insightful, spiritual questions, with which they are happy to engage.



Let us pray for the day that the Bosniaks recognize the supremacy of Jesus, and amid a complex society, may they one day proclaim and recognize Jesus’ words: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).



Joseph Posner, volunteer writer and content editor for TWR Europe and CAMENA.



 



Endnotes



1 Central-and-Eastern-Europe-Topline_FINAL-FOR-PUBLICATION.pdf (pewresearch.org)



2 Bosnia-Herzegovina people groups, languages and religions | Joshua Project



3 Mar 13 Archives - Operation World


 

 


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