Sep 24, 2013
05:37 AM

At Yale, President of Croatia Outlines the Role of Religion

At Yale, President of Croatia Outlines the Role of Religion

Peter Casolino

Ivo Josipovic, President of Croatia, speaks at Yale University Divinity School's Marquand Chapel on Monday, September 23.

The president of Croatia told a Yale University audience Monday that his country’s social and economic future depend, in part, on the religious tolerance of its people.

Ivo Josipovic, himself an avowed agnostic, has made religious dialogue a hallmark of reform efforts in Croatia. It is central to his international dealings, as well.

“The nature of religion is always trying to push us to do something good. That’s very important to me,” Josipovic said during a speech at Yale Divinity School. “I always think that religion can be (a) bridge between different people and different states.”

Josipovic, 56, is perhaps an unlikely leader for the country. He is a former composer, music festival director and law professor, elected with wide support in a nation that is 86 percent Catholic. He took office in 2010.

More than two decades after declaring its independence from the former Yugoslavia and some 18 years since a brutal conflict with Bosnia and Serbia, Croatia recently joined the European Union. Josipovic sought entry into the EU as a key to economic growth and regional stability.

But without legitimate moves toward reconciliation, among faith communities, political factions and countries in the region, joining the EU would be impossible, Josipovic offered.

“It was not (an) easy task,” he said, in light of destruction “on all sides” during the war.

“I considered, who can be our partners?” he said. He decided to reach out to religious groups.

For all the divisiveness religious clashes can bring, Josipovic said organized religion also serves to promote and preserve culture and history. He presented statistics indicating that in his country, only half of its citizens who believe in God also believe in life after death. Only a third of believers prayed every day outside of their place of worship

“People in Croatia distinguish between religious affiliation and political affiliation,” Josipovic said.

“It supports this idea of duality in our understanding of religion,” he said.

For the full story, visit New Haven Register online.


At Yale, President of Croatia Outlines the Role of Religion

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