East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter 1996, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

Bosnian Conflict and Evangelical Cooperation

Gary Braz

On 10-11 January 1996 in Zagreb, Croatia, representatives of Croatian Protestant churches and Western mission groups met to discuss the need for working partnerships and cooperation in Croatia and Bosnia.  This meeting of national leaders of the Protestant Evangelical Council of Croatia (PEV), the Baptist Union, nondenominational Protestant churches, and 37 Western missionaries, representing 24 agencies, was organized by Pioneers in cooperation with PEV and with Interdev as facilitator.

Croatian church leaders set the following priorities:

  1. relationships with Western groups that are marked by trust and respect;
  2. quality long-term Western missionaries who are committed to East-West partnership, who will work hard, who are culturally sensitive, and who bring a range of needed skills;
  3. financial and technical resources and training; and
  4. Western cultural sensitivity.  Groups that work independently of indigenous churches, so called "free-shooters," have caused great confusion, misunderstanding, and problems with the government, and have left a negative image in some communities, which has made it difficult for Evangelicals native to the region.
Western mission groups noted the following priorities:
  1. ongoing dialogue with indigenous church leaders built on mutual respect and the belief that all groups have the God-given right to work in the region;
  2. a united front for humanitarian work;
  3. better communication between Western missions and indigenous churches;
  4. cross-cultural training for new missionaries;
  5. prayer;
  6. better support for newly arriving missionary personnel, including help in establishing residency; and
  7. recognition by indigenous leaders that there will always be some entrepreneurial missions not working closely with any national group.  This promotes creativity and allows God to direct groups as He sees fit.  At the same time, foreign groups need to take steps to discourage "free-shooters" who cause problems and confusion.
Indigenous churches and Western ministries all agreed on the need for unity and partnership in light of the tremendous increase in foreign missions that can be expected in Bosnia and Croatia in the next year.  To facilitate greater cooperation, those assembled appointed a small working group consisting of representatives of the PEV, non-PEV Croatian Protestant churches, and Western missionaries.  Representatives of Western ministries are  Ted Esler (Pioneers)--facilitator, Brooke Butler (Campus Crusade), Dick Fischer (Navigators), Lisa Bell (Youth With A Mission), Mike Elwood (Greater Europe Mission), Steve Meeker (Send), David Lively (Church Resource Network International), and Johannes Neudeck (European Evangelical Alliance).

The Croatian-Bosnian ministry working group will not bring missions under the authority of indigenous Protestant churches, but does seek to encourage maximum cooperation and partnership with Protestant churches in the region. 

Gary Braz is a missionary with Pioneers working in Bosnia.

Editors' note: Contact information for Ted Esler, Croatian-Bosnian working group facilitator, is:

Antuna Gottlieba 22 
10090 Zagreb, Croatia 
Tel/fax: 011-385-1-163357
4031 Bethel Drive #33 
St. Paul, MN 55112 
Tel: 612-786-4814 
E-mail: 70303.475@compuserve 

Gary Braz, "Bosnian Conflict and Evangelical Cooperation," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 4 (Winter 1996), 1.

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1996 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
ISSN 1069-5664

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