5,500 young persecuted Christians apply for Croatian scholarships

14 June 2021

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Croatia’s Ministry of Science and Education and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs have been inundated with 5,500 applications for scholarships set aside for young persecuted Christians from developing countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The government has earmarked about £172,000 ($245,000; €200,000) to enable young persons persecuted for their Christian faith to pursue undergraduate and graduate university studies in Croatia.

Marijana Petir’s initiative has resulted in 5,500 applications from young persecuted Christians to study in Croatia

The aim is that they will acquire knowledge and then return to their own countries better equipped to contribute to shaping their communities along democratic and tolerant lines.

The initiative was the result of an amendment to the state budget submitted by independent MP Marijana Petir that was accepted in November 2020.

Petir said that the right to freedom of religion was being violated in one in three countries, and that it was estimated that about 67% of the world population, or 5.2 billion people, live in countries where there are serious restrictions on religious freedom.

She added that the number of applications for scholarships “exceeds all expectations”.

The proposal was opposed by some NGOs, who claimed that humanitarian aid should not be given on a discriminatory basis.

In response to this criticism of help being allocated exclusively to Christian students, Petir responded that “unfortunately, they are the most persecuted religious group in the world”.

Similarly, Barnabas Fund provides grants to fund tertiary study specifically to Christians, primarily in the students’ own countries or regions.

In places where impoverished Christians are too poor to access tertiary education many are offered scholarships by Islamic sources to study for free in Muslim-majority countries or at Islamic institutions; this results in many conversions to Islam.   

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