Historic Banja Luka Mosque Reopens After 23 Years
People, Travel

Historic Banja Luka Mosque Reopens After 23 Years

The Ferhadija mosque in the Bosnian Serb capital Banja Luka reopened to worshippers Saturday, more than two decades after it was dynamited by Serb forces in 1993 at the height of the Balkans war.
“The hate has receded, confidence has grown and the reconciliation will strengthen our spirits,” said Bosnia’s Muslim religious leader, Grand Mufti Husein Kavazovic, in front of a crowd of several thousand people, AFP reported.
“Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews and all the other citizens can and must build a shared, peaceful home on European soil,” he said.
The heavily guarded opening ceremony was attended by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu whose country part-funded the cost of the painstaking reconstruction of the Ottoman structure, according to Turkish media.
The 16th century former UNESCO World Heritage Site was one of the foremost places of worship for Muslims in Bosnia before the 1992-1995 war that pitted Muslims and Croats against Serbs, and later Muslims against Croats.

  All Mosques Destroyed
After the war, the country was split into the Serb Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
All 14 mosques in Banja Luka were destroyed during the war, with Muslims and Croats forced out of the northern town.
During the war, 614 of Bosnia’s 1,144 mosques were destroyed and 307 damaged, according to Muslim figures.
Dozens of Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches were also destroyed.
Muslims make up some 40% of Bosnia’s 3.8 million inhabitants, while Catholic Croats and Christian Orthodox Serbs account for 10 and 30% respectively.
The Islamic community’s efforts to lay a cornerstone to rebuild Ferhadija, also known as the Ferhat-Pasha Mosque, in May 2001 sparked anti-Muslim riots that left one person dead and 30 injured.
Efforts to rebuild the mosque resumed in 2007.
In 2009, a Bosnian Serb court annulled a 33 million euro ($38 million) fine against local authorities for the wartime destruction of all 16 mosques in Banja Luka.


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