Croatia’s evangelical church has been thrust into a breadth of service far out of proportion to its size.

You can’t huddle for days in a cellar with your neighbors, mortar shells bursting about you, and maintain a self-imposed isolation. Croatian writer and editor Ksenja Magda says the shared experience of a brutal war has forced the evangelical church in that former Yugoslavian republic out of its shell and into the streets, the homes, and even the hearts of its neighbors.

Croatia’s evangelical church is one of Europe’s smallest evangelical bodies, counting only 3,000 members in a predominantly Roman Catholic country of 4.5 million. But it has been thrust into a breadth of service far out of proportion to its size.

Six or seven Protestant relief organizations and individual churches in Croatia administer multimillion-dollar relief projects financed largely by Western churches and Christian relief organizations. Nearly every local church has been pressed into service to its own community or communities around it, as some 600,000 refugees from Croatia and neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina flee the vicious ethnic fighting that has engulfed the region. It is a role for which the churches were unprepared, in a war that has pitted Orthodox Serbians against Catholic Croats, and resulted in the deliberate destruction of both Orthodox and Catholic churches.

In Marshal Tito’s nonaligned Yugoslavia, Christians enjoyed more freedom than in communist countries within the Soviet sphere. However, until a few years ago, a theology of withdrawal from the world coupled with what some Christian leaders there describe as a “sectarian spirit” shielded the evangelical church from contact with nonevangelical outsiders and kept it splitting into ever-smaller ...

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