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EU > Slovenia > Koper

Church imperialism

Koper, SI (View on map)

Religion was not banned in Slovenia under communist rule, but it certainly wasn`t encouraged either. The communist system nationalized all churches and church-owned territory, just like they did with any type of property, but they only banned religion for civil servants and state officials. Regardless of its ever good intentions, religion was one of the decisive motive for the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Ever since then, the different churches have tried to strengthen their grip on the population of the new republics. In Slovenia, the Catholic Church keeps trying to re-conquer its once dominant position in the country. With variable success.

Tjasa (28):

..remembers the Yugoslav version of Santa Claus
Catholicism is currently the main religion of Slovenia, officially represented by\ 60% of the population. The remainder is predominantly agnostic, atheistic or has an unspecified faith. Orthodox and Muslim minorities together make up less than 10% of the population and most of their members are respectively Serbs and Bosnians. Slovenia is the only EU-country that has no mosques on its national territory, which Maja (27) finds an outright shame. `Muslims now need to use gymnasiums for their prayers. I find that ridiculous and humiliating.`

Maja refuses to refer to any god with a name: `It doesn`t matter to me whether people believe in God, Allah or something or somebody with another name. I believe they are all one and the same. I did want to go to the Catholic church at one point, when I was 8 years old. I just wanted to join my friends and so I told my mum that I would go there. And we would go on ski trips. I guess that was actually the real reason I wanted to go, but never mind. Right now, I don`t feel any need to go to church, because I can perfectly believe in something without having to attend service. The church is an institution. They sell people hope. I prefer to believe in myself and my karma. If I am good to other people, I expect them to behave the same in return. How others see you is a mirror of your own behaviour. I don`t expect somebody to tell me that I should say twenty prayers to be forgiven for killing somebody, which is sort of what the church does. And if the Vatican doesn`t care about money, as it preaches, why does it have so much gold but no facilities for handicapped people?`

Tjasa (28, photo) knows that the church is trying to claim back huge parts of forests that were nationalized under communism. Many people are angry about these plans, but Tjasa does not feel personally touched by it, `as long as they leave me alone and don`t ask me for money. I don`t have any idea of why forests should belong to the church or what they would be using it for.`

Tjasa considers herself atheist and says that her parents baptised her but otherwise never paid attention to religion. `In communist times, we didn`t even really have Santa Claus. That was a symbol of the West. We had Dedek Mraz, `Grandfather Cold`, who would bring presents on New Year`s Eve. Now it`s sort of mixed. Religious people will prepare presents ar Christmas time, non-religious people still embrace the Dedek Mraz tradition.`

Anze (20) thinks that religious sentiments are particularly strong in the region close to the Hungarian border. `That`s where most of the protestants and orthodox people live. Catholicism is strongly represented in small villages and farmer communities throughout the country. Many old people go to church, youngsters are not too fond of the concept. I personally don`t think that religion is a bad thing, it`s just unnecessary. I don`t know why I would need it. I prefer to think that everybody has a personal faith. I haven`t found mine yet, but I don`t think I will find it in an existing religion, not even in Buddhism.`

Alen (18) never goes to church, not even at Christmas. He would go if one of his friends got married, but his church experience so far is limited to school excursions. Ana (30) also learnt about religion in school. `We learnt about Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Orthodox Church and a little bit about Islam. All of that was in university by the way, not in primary or secondary school. I studied history, and religion was an important part of the program`, she says.

Pecunia non olet
Ana continues by telling me that the Slovenian Catholic Church owns one of the most profitable investment funds in Slovenia. `Under the name of Kmecka Druzba, `society of farmers`, they invest in a range of companies and are making fortunes. One of the companies they invested in is the internet provider T2. How much has that got to do with religion? I find it rather strange for a religious organisation to go after material gains, but at least we don`t have to pay church tax here so it`s not my money they are spending.`

Jasmina (21) thinks the Catholic Church should be banned from taking part in financial investment projects. `Also, they should be more liberal in allowing other religions into Slovenia`, she says. A few years ago, we had this huge polemic about the construction of a mosque in Ljubljana. Then, as it turned out, the intended location for the mosque was subject to a de-nationalisation claim of the Catholic Church, so you can imagine that the situation got fairly complicated. Also from outside the Church, there was huge resistance against the construction of the mosque. I still don`t know what the final solution will be. Fortunately, it`s the only point of friction that still exists in Slovenia after our independence. I think the influence of the Church will decline in the next decades anyway. With so many old religious people slowly dying and so few young people to replace them, their position of power will soon start fading out as well.`

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