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Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religious communities said interfaith relations were excellent.

Authorities reported that on April 19, Rudolf Nikollaj attacked individuals at the Dine Hoxha Mosque in Tirana with a knife following afternoon prayers, wounding five persons before police arrested him. Nikollaj, whose father is Catholic and mother is Muslim, had converted to Islam, according to his father, but was often prevented from entering mosques by worshippers who told him he was Christian. Nikollaj’s father told media his son had been depressed. In July, the Tirana prosecutor asked the Tirana District Court to put Nikollaj in a medical institution due to his history of mental health problems. In November the court accepted the prosecution’s recommendation.

According to an IRI report entitled Antisemitic Discourse in the Western Balkans released during the year, antisemitic statements in domestic media were rare, although there were some conspiracy theories regarding a Jewish American businessman’s role in influencing domestic politics and Jews controlling the world order and economy. Of 457 online media items studied between January 2019 and May 20, 2020, 17 (3.7 percent) contained what IRI determined was antisemitic content. Most media focused on Holocaust remembrance and the country’s good relations with Israel.

The Interfaith Council held several online and in-person meetings domestically and internationally on faith-related issues, such as a discussion on the country’s communist past and religion, as well as other topics, including the role of religious groups in combating trafficking in persons and countering violent extremism.

Together as the Interfaith Council and individually, religious communities provided books, food, and other donations to support institutions such as hospitals and families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The IRC, which records and tracks cases of religious intolerance and hatred, recorded three incidents against religious officials and 23 cases of vandalism against religious buildings.  Of the 23 incidents of vandalism, eight targeted Catholics, 10 Muslims, three the SOC, and two the Jewish Community.  In 2020, the IRC recorded 17 incidents of vandalism against religious buildings, identifying suspects in only three of those cases.  Because religion and ethnicity often are closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many actions as solely based on religious identity.

The IRC again stated it believed the actual number of religiously motivated incidents against religious persons or buildings was much higher but that members of religious groups feared reporting them.  The IRC also stated it lacked the staff, capacity, or funding to follow up in detail on every case.

In one of the three incidents against persons, on January 18, a man in Livno Canton verbally insulted imams and Muslims gathered in a mosque.  Livno Canton Police identified the individual and arrested him.  Authorities fined him for disturbing public peace and order.

The BiH Jewish Community reported a significant increase in antisemitic speech online, especially after clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in May.  Examples of online hate speech included targeting members of the Jewish Community, sending them death threats, denying the Holocaust, glorifying Hitler, and stating that “all Jews should be sent to Auschwitz gas chambers.”  The IRC condemned this social media post and called on local police to investigate the case and identify the author of the post.

On February 18, an unknown person fired several gunshots at the minaret of the historic Aladza Mosque in Foca, causing minor damage.  Police investigated but had not identified a suspect by year’s end.

In March, a person drew a swastika on an obituary that was hanging on the entrance of the Ashkenazi Synagogue/Jewish Community headquarters in the center of Sarajevo.  The obituary was of a prominent member of the Jewish Community in Sarajevo.  Using surveillance camera footage, Sarajevo Canton Police identified the 17-year-old who drew the swastika and filed a criminal report against him with the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office.

On May 9, an unknown person drew graffiti insulting Jesus on the front of the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Bihac.  Near the church, there was a swastika drawn on a traffic sign, and the slogan “Knife, Wire, Srebrenica,” referencing the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, written on a billboard nearby.  Bihac Mayor Suhret Fazlic condemned the vandalism and called on police to investigate it vigorously, but there were no developments in the case by year’s end.  The Islamic Community also condemned the incident, saying via social media that desecration of religious objects was an act not only against religion but also against civilization, and that should concern everyone.

On August 5, unidentified persons broke a window in the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin in the village of Vukovsko near Kupres and overturned the headstone of the grave of Simo Popovic, the priest who built the church in 1860.  The attack was the third on the church in recent years.  MHRR Minister Milos Lucic condemned the incident.  There were no developments in the case by year’s end.

Mesud Hrbat, a Sarajevo businessman, provided support to all four main religious groups in Sarajevo in order, he said, to contribute to good neighborly and interreligious relations in Sarajevo.  Hrbat funded the construction of a mosque in the Rjecica settlement of Sarajevo’s Novi Grad Municipality, paid BAM 100,000 ($58,000) for the facade of the Catholic Saint Luke the Evangelist Church in Sarajevo’s Municipality of Novi Grad and BAM 100,000 ($58,000) for restoration of the yard of the Old Orthodox Church in Sarajevo, and pledged BAM 60,000 ($34,800) for a new facade on the Ashkenazi Synagogue /Jewish community building in Sarajevo.

In 2020 (the most recent year for which data were available), the OSCE Mission to BiH observed through its monitoring program 16 potential bias-motivated incidents targeting Muslims and 27 incidents targeting Christians (Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Orthodox).  All 43 incidents, which represented a 39 percent increase over the 31 the OSCE reported in 2019, were reported to the police.  The incidents included threatening religious officials such as Cardinal Puljic, threatening believers, disturbing religious ceremonies, vandalism of religious properties, desecration of cemeteries, and other property offenses.  The OSCE said the data should be interpreted with caution because of an assumed high rate of underrecording and underreporting of bias crimes in the country.

The Council of Muftis of the Islamic Community said it was continuing efforts to persuade unregistered Islamic congregations (known as para-jamaats), which gathered predominantly Salafist followers and operated outside the purview of the Islamic Community, to cease what they described as “unsanctioned” religious practices and officially unite with the Islamic Community.  The Islamic Community reported there were 20 active para-jamaats, compared with 11 in 2020.  According to Islamic Community officials, the difference was not the result of an increase in the number of para-jamaats but of better data collection.  According to the Islamic Community, of these 20 groups, four had memberships consisting of up to 40 families, while other para-jamaats comprised only a handful of believers.

The IRC continued working on different projects through its 15 local chapters across the country, primarily focusing on youth and women.  The projects included publishing a manual to guide religious officials working with wartime sexual abuse survivors and organizing an interreligious camp that brought together youth from all principal religious communities across the country.  The IRC also continued to monitor and condemn attacks on religious leaders and buildings.  In September, the IRC organized a youth conference on combating hate speech, including religiously motivated hate speech, in social media.  The IRC also expanded its interfaith network of women belonging to different religious groups across its 15 chapters.


Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In July, the Basic Court in Pristina sentenced Montenegrin national Risto Jovanovic to six months in prison for inciting intolerance by chanting nationalist slogans such as “Kill the Albanians!” during the June 28 observance of Vivovdan, which commemorates the 1389 Battle of Kosovo between Serbs and Ottomans at Gazimestan, Pristina.  The court fined Jovanovic 6,700 euros ($7,600) in lieu of imprisonment and banned him from entering the country for five years.

The SOC again stated media reporting contributed to a climate of interethnic and interreligious intolerance during the year.  For example, in June, SOC officials complained about negative media reactions following SOC Bishop Teodosije Sibalic’s liturgy on the occasion of Orthodox Holy Ascension in the contested Christ the Savior Church.  During the service, Bishop Teodosije reportedly said, “By serving the liturgy today in this cathedral, we testify who we are, who we were, and who we should be in the future.  We testify that we will never give up our holy sites, that they belong to us, representing a pledge of our eternal life.”  The SOC said unknown persons wrote graffiti on the church’s doors reading “Jesus Hates Serbs” after the liturgy was completed.  The SOC said it did not report the vandalism to the police because the media widely reported the incident and police were present at the time.  A group of students subsequently staged a protest in front of the church, which they said was associated with the Slobodan Milosevic regime.  According to media, some Kosovo politicians and students criticized the bishop’s liturgy, and local NGO Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms called it an “insult” and a “provocation.”

The BIK again stated there were media reports and statements on social media that portrayed Muslims negatively but did not cite examples.

National police said they received reports of 87 incidents targeting religious sites during the year, compared with 57 incidents in 2020.  The incidents targeted 56 Muslim, 30 SOC, and one Roman Catholic property.  Police classified two cases as incitement of discord and intolerance but did not give details.  The BIK said incidents targeting mosques were likely financially motivated, citing, for example, a cash charity box in the Kacanik Mosque that was robbed several times during the year.  According to the BIK, the thefts negatively affected their humanitarian activities.  The SOC stated that some of the incidents involving its property in the country were religiously and ethnically motivated.  Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was sometimes difficult to categorize incidents as solely based on religious identity.

In March, the SOC said unknown individuals broke into its parsonage under construction in Vitomirice/Vitomirica and stole construction materials worth 4,000 euros ($4,500).  In May, the SOC said unknown individuals looted the Churches of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and St. Dimitrije in the Strpce/Shterpce area.  Media reported that on June 28, unknown individuals took away an SOC flag that was flying at the entrance of Gracanica Monastery, and subsequently posted an image to social media of a masked person holding an Albanian flag and trampling the stolen SOC flag and setting it on fire.  Media reported that in July, unknown persons broke into the SOC Church of St. Peter and Paul in Strpce and wrote “Kosovo Liberation Army” on the wall.  The SOC said it reported these incidents to the police but were concerned about the ability or willingness of authorities to protect Serbian Orthodox Church facilities.

In April, local Kosovo-Serb civil society organizations and Kosovo-Serb political representatives criticized the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF), which had stated that the Visoki Decani Monastery was turned into a military base and Kosovo Albanians were held hostage there during the 1999 war and requested an investigation of the monastery’s Abbot, Father Sava Janjic, for “possible violations of the Law of War and Humanitarian Law.”  Sixteen civil society organizations in a joint statement strongly condemned CDHRF’s allegations, which, they said, were “groundless” and called on the government to clearly condemn the CDHRF position and provide all necessary protection to the monastery and Father Janjic.

The KPEC said the media disproportionately covered humanitarian aid from secular or non-Protestant sources but rarely reported on KPEC’s humanitarian work; representatives said the omission contributed to societal intolerance of Protestants and other minority religions.

According to an International Republican Institute (IRI) report entitled Antisemitic Discourse in the Western Balkans released during the year, antisemitic statements in media were rare.  Of 1,548 online media items studied between January 2019 and May 20, 2020, 70 (4.5 percent) contained what the IRI determined was antisemitic content.  Most media focused on Holocaust remembrance and the role ethnic Albanians played in saving Jews during World War II.  The IRI stated some “more conservative and radical Muslim communities accuse Israel of controlling the world, its security, financial and banking sectors, the health industry, etc.”

According to Imam Maliqi, Muslim women were reluctant to wear the hijab, fearing potential employment and societal discrimination.

The KPEC said the majority of people in the country respected Christians, including Protestants, but a small percentage of “radical” Muslims did not.  In addition, it said its members in rural areas, many of whom converted to Christianity from Islam, were hesitant to practice their religion openly due to fear of discrimination.

Following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and disputes over privately-owned land expropriations, construction continued on a Turkish-government-funded Grand Mosque in Pristina.  Some citizens continued to oppose construction of the mosque, saying its design was based on an archaic Ottoman style rather than traditional Kosovo mosque architecture.  Some local imams continued to state existing downtown mosques fulfilled the needs of their constituency and that there was no demand for such a large mosque in the area.

Religious group leaders continued interfaith discussions on property rights, legislative priorities, and local community issues.  On December 30, the OSCE condemned the vandalism of the SOC cemetery in Gracanica/e Municipality, where unknown persons damaged seven tombstones.  Police initiated an investigation.


Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On November 20, authorities arrested Zorislav Lekovic after he carried a Chetnik flag down the main street in front of the mosque in Pljevlja and attacked Sabina Talovic, an activist of the Safe Women’s House, and Belisa Pojatic, executive director of the Vitomir Srbljanovic Art Gallery, who were trying to film him.  Authorities later sent Lekovic to the Special Hospital for Psychiatry in Kotor for treatment, after which the Basic State Prosecutor in Pljevja ordered his detention for 72 hours.

The Bosniak Party responded to the incident by saying that “The latest incident … in which Pljevlja resident Zorislav Lekovic provoked passers-by in front of the mosque, carrying a Chetnik flag, and then attacked two Bosniaks, is a continuation of the torture suffered by Pljevlja Muslims in the last year….When we all remember the antifascist struggle and when we thought that the fascist and Chetnik movements were forever defeated, unfortunately, something is happening that does not contribute to the multiethnicity of Pljevlja and Montenegro.”

The Bosniak Party stated that as of August 30, 2020 (the date of the previous year’s national parliamentary elections), Muslims in Pljevlja lived in constant fear of individuals who disturbed harmony, telling Muslims they were not welcomed in Pljevlja.  On November 27, Acting Supreme State Prosecutor Drazen Buric ordered the Bijelo Polje Higher State Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether Lekovic had committed the crime of inciting national, racial, and religious hatred.  The Bijelo Polje Higher State Prosecutor’s Office had not made a determination by year’s end.

On November 17, the Higher State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica issued an order to police to collect information on online hate speech made by the director of the Piva Hydroelectric Power Plant, Radomir Radonjic.  Radonjic’s Facebook posts included language that was anti-Islamic as well as anti-Albanian and endorsed convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic.  In one post, Radonjic called ICM Reis Fejzic “Allah’s Montenegrin.”  Reis Fejzic responded in a tweet that he “couldn’t believe that there might come a time when state officials would celebrate criminals and call dissidents Shiptars [derogatory term for Albanians] and Ustashas [term for Croatian ultranationalist-fascist groups active from 1929-1945], Allah’s Montenegrins…”  The posts drew condemnation from members of both opposition and ruling parties.

Speaker of Parliament Becic tweeted, “I strongly condemn the hate speech of the director of HPP Piva, Radomir Radonjic.  Any sinister nationalist views, no matter which side they come from, will never again defeat the spirit of civil and multiethnic Montenegro.”  Members of Parliament Slaven Radunovic of the Democratic Front and Dusko Markovic of the DPS, among others, also criticized Radonjic, who resigned from his position on November 19.

On November 10, in response to an unidentified woman distributing Bibles and evangelical Christian literature in Berane, local news site Berane Online published a story titled, “Ignore these people with a wide arc!” next to a photo of the woman, face obscured, beside her stand.  The article stated, “certain religious structures have appeared in Berane that give themselves the right to abuse the Name of the Lord in order to promote literature and teachings that are harmful to the human soul.”  It quoted extensively a local SOC priest who condemned the evangelical literature as belonging to a “sect,” and stated that the group’s members were “demons who are nothing but wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Private individuals posted critical comments or disparaging material on social media about both the SOC and the MOC, for example, calling the SOC war criminals or the MOC a construct of the state.  In April, an individual posted a vulgar cartoon online depicting SOC then-Bishop Joanikije with Minister of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport Bratic.  Police investigated but were unable to determine the author of the cartoon.

On April 15, a group vandalized the SOC youth theological boarding school in Cetinje.  The group approached the front of the school at approximately 2:00 am, shouting threats and breaking school windows and doors.  After they were unable to enter the premises, the group set containers in front of the school on fire before departing, promising to return.  The group also broke windows on a vehicle near the school.  On April 19, police arrested five individuals in connection with the incident, charging them with violent behavior and damaging and vandalizing a car.  The former school principal stated the attack was the result of a negative public campaign by political elements close to the former government against the SOC.

On February 11, unknown persons defaced the Hadzi-Ismail Mosque in Niksic with graffiti saying “Srebrenica”, “Turks,” and “Niksic will be Srebrenica.”  The Hadzi-Ismail Mosque is the only mosque serving Niksic’s Muslim community of approximately 1,500 persons.  Dzemo Redzematovic, the Imam of Podgorica and Niksic, told press on February 10 that “[t]his is not an incident, this is a trend that has been going on for a long time.  It started in Pljevlja, across Berane, now in Niksic.  The state authorities should have found all the perpetrators by now.”  The government, NGOs, and other religious groups condemned the vandalism.  There were no arrests or prosecutions of the vandals.

According to the SOC, on February 6, unidentified vandals stole the cross on the gate leading to Cetinje Monastery.  The SOC, in publicly calling for the cross’ return, stated that the vandalism had “dozens and hundreds of inspirers, who persistently falsely accuse the Church of all social problems and present it as the enemy of Montenegro.”  Police conducted a preliminary investigation but made no arrests.

The trial of Muslim politician Sanin Rascic in the Basic Court in Pljevlja, which began in December 2020, did not resume during the year.  The Basic State Prosecutor’s office in Pljevlja had charged Rascic with causing panic among citizens by making misleading statements about an alleged assault against him on the night of the August 30 parliamentary elections.  The prosecutor said an investigation found the assault was neither by those celebrating the election results nor motivated by ethnic hatred and cited what he said were discrepancies in Rascic’s account of the alleged assault.

In January, Chief Rabbi of Montenegro and Croatia, Luciano Mose Prelevic, told the NGO Balkan Investigative Reporting Network that “Antisemitism has never become or been part of the state ideology in Montenegro, so it has never taken root among citizens.”  In October, the Jewish community hosted the eighth annual Maher (“tomorrow” in Hebrew) Conference in the Adriatic Sea town of Budva, an initiative it said aims to strengthen Jewish communities in southeast and central Europe.

North Macedonia

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

OAO officials continued to say their clergy and their family members were often targets of insults in media and victims of physical attacks by individuals considered close to the MOC-OA.  In August, personnel at a cemetery in Skopje refused to allow Bishop David of the OAO to officiate at a funeral despite the family’s insistence.

In May, protesters in support of a Palestinian state gathered at the Holocaust Museum.  A large number of the protesters chanted antisemitic slurs.  The Jewish community reported no violent acts against them but said that during the escalation of the conflict in Gaza, some of its members complained their children had been bullied for their Jewish identity – especially those attending international schools alongside the children of diplomats and businessmen from the Arab world.  There was an increase in antisemitic social media posts during the conflict.

Holocaust Museum representatives said in September they noticed an increase in antisemitic posts on social media and the use of the yellow Star of David in anti-vaccination disinformation, which blamed COVID-19 on “Bolsheviks, Satanists, and Jews.”

In September, former imam Skender Buzaku, who announced he was running to become leader of the IRC, reported receiving threats via text messages from unknown persons telling him he would never become leader and would instead be imprisoned and killed.  According to Buzaku, the messages also called on him to immediately withdraw the embezzlement charges he had filed in 2019 against former head of the IRC Sulejman Rexhepi and current head of the IRC Fetahu or else he (Buzaku) would be “liquidated.”  Buzaku reported the case to police officials dealing with violent crime.  Police had taken no action on the case by year’s end.  The IRC expelled Buzaku in 2015 for his role in the temporary takeover of the IRC headquarters in Skopje by his armed followers.

On October 15, the IRC condemned what it said was the mockery of Islamic religious rites for political purposes by Shuto Orizari mayoral candidate Tefik Mahmut, a member of opposition party Levica.  Mahmut organized a mock Islamic call to prayer on the street in front of a government building in Skopje on October 14.  The IRC called Levica’s gathering a “primitive act.”

The Bektashi (Tetovo) Community continued to dispute the IRC’s claims to full ownership of the Harabati Baba Teqe complex, which the Bektashi (Tetovo) used as its headquarters.  The Bektashi (Tetovo) Community also opposed the IRC’s plans to renovate the complex, with Turkish assistance.  Bektashi (Tetovo) Community representatives continued to express concern that the renovation would be conducted without their consent and that it would displace them from the compound entirely, in addition to destroying valuable heritage.  The Bektashi (Tetovo) Community remained unable to assert a claim of ownership to the compound because the group remained unregistered.

Media reported several incidents of theft from Orthodox monasteries, and the MOC-OA reported 18 acts of theft or vandalism of Orthodox sites during the year, including one in a majority-Muslim area.  The MOC-OA did not attribute the thefts and vandalism to religious motives.

On May 11, unknown individuals vandalized for the second time in less than 12 months the tombs of Mehmet Pashe Deralla and Ali Vishko, prominent Albanian Bektashi leaders, at the Harabati Baba Teqe shrine in Tetovo.

The Helsinki Committee in the country registered 30 incidents of hate speech with a religious component during the year, compared with 38 in 2020.  The IRC added that incidents were generally limited to false items on social media and news portals.

The Holocaust Fund, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), continued to work with the Ministry of Education and Science on a project to train educators to teach secondary school students about the Holocaust and Jewish history.  The fund held three online and two in-person seminars during the year.

On September 28, the Holocaust Memorial Center opened an exhibition adapted for persons with hearing and visual impairments.  The center, opened in 2020, continued to commemorate the country’s Jewish population and those sent to the Treblinka death camp during World War II.  To the extent COVID-19 restrictions permitted, the center conducted Holocaust education programs in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science.


Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Media reported three separate antisemitic incidents in Novi Sad and in Belgrade.  In January, unknown individuals defaced a tourism campaign billboard displaying a photo of Novi Sad’s synagogue by crossing out a Star of David and spray-painting Nazi SS insignia and a neo-Nazi Celtic cross.  In May, unknown individuals placed posters with swastikas and the message “We are Everywhere” in downtown Belgrade.  After this incident, Jewish leaders, on behalf of the Jewish community, which is a recognized legal entity within the Serbian legal system, filed criminal charges with the Republic Public Prosecutor, requesting that the prosecutor find the perpetrators and hold them responsible for incitement of religious and racial hatred.  In June, unknown persons spray-painted an elementary school playground in Belgrade with antisemitic messages.  At year’s end, authorities had not identified suspects in any of these incidents.

The International Republican Institute report Antisemitic Discourse in the Western Balkans:  Collection of Case Studies stated that monitored news sources rarely manifested instances of antisemitism, but individual’s comments and social media postings did.  These most often consisted of conspiracy theories involving Jews, Zionists, and the state of Israel and/or language blaming Jews for wars, poverty, COVID-19, and using financial influence to control states.

On October 26, opponents of COVID-19 vaccines and the government’s COVID-19 protection measures protested in front of the apartment of epidemiologist Predrag Kon, a member of the government COVID-19 Crisis Team and of the Jewish community, calling him, among other things, Josef Mengele.  On November 4, unknown perpetrators spray-painted “Kon=Mengele” on the building where Kon lives.  Government officials condemned the incidents.

Jewish leaders said the COVID-19 pandemic fed online antisemitic stereotypes and statements.  Jewish community leaders stated antisemitic works, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, continued to be available for purchase via online sales platforms.  Self-defined patriotic groups continued to maintain several websites, and individuals hosted chat rooms that promoted antisemitic ideas and literature.  There were no reported prosecutions.

In October and early November, unknown perpetrators vandalized the tomb of the late Mufti Hamdija Jusufspahic, located in downtown Belgrade.  Belgrade Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic publicly apologized to Jusufspahic’s family and called on authorities to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable.  At year’s end, the perpetrators had not been identified.

On the evening of December 24, while Christmas Eve Mass was taking place inside St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Belgrade, unknown individuals vandalized the church by tipping over a stand holding prayer candles and spray-painting on the exterior of the church “Fascists” and “Ratko Mladic is a Hero” (a reference to the Bosnian Serb military commander convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia).  At year’s end, the perpetrators had not been identified.

Some traditional and online media, as well as other websites, continued to use the term “sect” for smaller Christian denominations and nontraditional groups, which carried a strong negative connotation of “secrecy and mystifying rituals” in the Serbian language, according to anthropologist of religion Aleksandra Djuric Milovanovic, a research fellow at the Institute of Balkan Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.  Many smaller or nontraditional religious groups reported some public bias and discrimination against their members.  Several Protestant groups continued to state that they believed the general public still mistrusted and misunderstood Protestantism and that individuals sometimes referred to some Protestant denominations as “sects.”

Several smaller religious groups, including the Christ Evangelical Church, the Anglican Church, and the Theravada Buddhist Community, said interfaith education and dialogue were needed among the broader religious community, and not only among the seven traditional groups.  They also reported that formal interfaith dialogue was minimal and sporadic.  The same groups also reported good cooperation with local SOC officials.

On February 18, the SOC elected Metropolitan Porfirije Peric as its 46th Patriarch.  On February 24, Patriarch Porfirije publicly highlighted the importance of ecumenical dialogue in the country and the region and spoke of how “the Church has a task to bring together and build bridges, soften blades, and overcome polarization.”

On October 10, the Jewish Community of Belgrade elected Aron Fuks as its new president.  None of the opposing candidates who participated in the election disputed the results.  The acceptance of the results avoided a repeat of the 2019 contested election for leadership of the Jewish Community of Belgrade, which Jewish leaders said led to significant tension within the community.

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