MUSLIMS IN EASTERN EUROPE
deep wounds and centuries-long conflicts.
- Pray for healing from past wounds and softened hearts to receive the Gospel.
- Pray for Christ’s love to bring unity and peace to this divided region.
- Pray for a new generation of Muslim youth who find hope and purpose in Jesus.
WHAT DOES ISLAM LOOK LIKE IN EASTERN EUROPE?
Eastern Europe includes both historic Muslim communities as well as recently arrived Muslim refugees. Islam first came in conquering waves. Mongol invaders in the 13th century had adopted Islam following their conquests. Next came the conquest of Muslim Tatars. Finally, the Ottomans occupied most of Eastern Europe from the 14th to the 17th centuries.
After the decisive defeat of the Ottoman Turks in Vienna in 1683, Islam entered a two-century retreat, with waves of converted Europeans leaving with the retreating Turks.
Remaining Muslim communities have survived in Kosovo (95%), Albania (55%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (51%), North Macedonia (33%), Montenegro (20%), Bulgaria (11%), Latvia (7.7%), Austria (7%), and Slovenia (3.8%). For the remainder of Eastern Europe – not counting Russia – the percentage of Muslims is mostly less than 1%.
The majority are Sunni, and are cultural, conservative, or even secular Muslims. Some 20% favor Sharia law and prefer to live in Muslim-majority communities.
Recently arrived Muslim refugees are generally not welcomed by Eastern Europeans. Initially they used Eastern Europe as the passage-way to Western Europe, but once Western Europe reached refugee saturation levels, European Union agencies asked Eastern European nations to accept national refugee quotas. Those requests were firmly rejected.
WHAT ARE MUSLIMS’ GREATEST STRUGGLES IN EASTERN EUROPE?
Muslims in Eastern Europe are either visible minorities or small Muslim-majority nations in a larger historical Christian continent. During the cold war era, Eastern European Muslims played no significant role in nationalistic or ideological movements.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the inter-ethnic tensions in the Balkan regions led to violent fragmentation around national-religious identities. Muslims were attacked by Serbs or Croats and they sometimes counter-attacked. Massacres followed, mostly of Muslims.
Islamists poured money, arms, and militant doctrine into this conflict. As a result, extremism grew among many Balkan Muslims. Though they gained significant territory in Kosovo, Muslims suffered the most.
The third Balkan war (1992-1995) involved horrific massacres, rape, destruction of sacred sites, creation of concentration camps, and vengeance attacks, leading to a major refugee crisis. Muslims fled everywhere within Europe, often to economically deprived sections of larger cities where other people from their ethnicity had already relocated.