Evangelicals in Serbia face many difficulties. The recent religion law creates difficulty for all new religious groups, including many new evangelical groups.
Protestants (110,000) have a long history among Hungarians and Slovak minorities, but little impact among Serbs and Albanians. Many do not live out their faith. Pray for revival. For groups where ethnic identity determines religious identity, evangelicals can appear to be traitors and part of a religious sect. But through all these challenges, newer churches do grow and minister Christ to others! Romani churches grow the fastest in Serbia and reflect the culture of the Romani people well.
Serbia is a nation with a public relations problem. It sees itself as defender of Europe and the Christian faith against Muslim aggression, as misunderstood and betrayed by the rest of Christendom and as victim of a propaganda war. Conversely, much of the world perceives Serbia as a warmongering, hyper-nationalist power guilty of ethnic cleansing and atrocities, and as a perpetrator of ethnoreligious hatred. Both views have some justification. A long history of victimization by other nations (Turks, Austrians, Germans, Croats and others) has left a legacy of bitterness. Pray for the healing and redemptive transformation of Serbian identity; a mighty work of God is necessary for this to happen.
The Balkan Wars left a range of unresolved issues: the devastated economy, a fragile democracy, and poor relations with neighbouring countries and treatment of minority groups (including in Kosovo). Resolutions must be found, but a stubborn government and entrenched ethnocentrism in the main faith groups (Orthodoxy, Islam and Catholicism) make political and religious structures part of the problem. Pray that the tiny evangelical community – the only body that has retained multi-cultural fellowships – might prove a catalyst for good.
The Serbian Orthodox Church seeks to regain great influence over national life – it has suppressed other Orthodox churches serving ethnic minorities (Romanians, Macedonians and Montenegrins) and pushed for a harsh and self-serving religion law that entrenches mono-ethnic religious groups. Pray for new life within this ancient Church, and that it may turn its back on totalitarian instincts and support true religious freedom.
Christian mission agencies find it hard to establish long-term ministry. Pray that openings may increase, and long-term workers be called; pray that every part of the country be reached. Significant agencies involved are ECM, GEM and IMB.
From Operation World, 7th Edition, by Jason Mandryk. Copyright (c) 2010 by Jason Mandryk. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, USA. www.ivpress.com