The Croatian government is granting scholarships to young persecuted Christians.
Parliament approved in November 2020 the state budget allocating $237,000 to the scholarship program. Interested students are invited to send in their application until May 17th, reports Catholic News Agency.
Conservative MP Marijana Petir, the proponent in amending the country’s budget, said providing education is one way of helping marginalized Christians in the world. “The planned funding of 1.5 million kuna (Croatian currency) is intended for scholarships for young people who are persecuted for their faith in a way that allows them to study in Croatia and gain knowledge and then return to their homeland where they will help build their communities and a democratic and tolerant society.”
We want to enable them to study in Croatia and gain knowledge and then return to their homelands where they will help build their communities and a democratic and tolerant society. —Marijana Petir, Member of the Croatian Parliament
“The money will be intended for their study and accommodation needs during their studies in Croatia,” added Petir.
Croatia is a predominantly Christian country, with 86% of the population adhering to the Catholic faith. The scholarship is offered to persecuted Christians outside the European Union, particularly to individuals living in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The Ministry of Science and Education and Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs explained that the program aims to help people who are maltreated because of their faith.
In a joint statement, the ministries said: “Religious minorities, primarily Christians are one of the vulnerable groups in the world. The Republic of Croatia has recognized this negative trend on a global scale, and within its scope of work in the field of the international development cooperation is committed to respect and protect the rights of religious groups, as the vulnerable groups in developing countries.”
While some NGOs criticized the move as being discriminatory, Petir pointed out that Christians belong to the most persecuted religious group in the world and should be offered all the support. Aid to the Church in Need revealed that almost 300 million Christians live in countries where it is dangerous to be a Christian.
“The funds are intended for scholarships for young people who are persecuted for their faith in countries where Islamist terrorists are in power or governments do not allow them to enroll for a master’s or doctorate just because they are Christians,” Petir said.
Scholars are allowed to study for a bachelor’s degree and even pursue a master’s degree. The program covers full board and lodging, basic health insurance coverage, a $250 monthly allowance, and travel cost to and from Croatia. Even the year-long preparatory course for the Croatian language will be paid by the scholarship.
In addition to the benefits of the program, graduates are required to go back to their home countries to apply what they’ve learned in Croatia.
The education and foreign ministries echoed Petir’s statements and required scholarship holders “to contribute to the development of their communities and to build capacities and strengthen resilience at the local level with their knowledge acquired in Croatia upon return to their homelands.”