In a book widely cited by Medjugorje antagonists, a Dutch anthropologist claimed that families in Medjugorje killed each other during the civil war. Now another book reveals this as untrue, and causes Free University of Amsterdam to open case of scientific fraud against its former employee.
Whereas the destruction of the Franciscan monastery in Mostar remains a well documented fact, Mart Bax’s claims of Medjugorje citizens committing atrocities against each other during the civil war have never been possible to verify. The Free University of Amsterdam now officially investigates the academic work of its former anthropology professor.
Retired anthropology professor Mart Bax will be investigated by his former university in Holland over serious suspicion of scientific fraud. Part of the case concerns Mart Bax’s work on Medjugorje, the Dutch online media Univers Online reports, along with other media in Holland.
The investigation has been spurred by the recent publication of a book by the Dutch investigative journalist Frank van Kolfschooten. Part of the book is devoted to examining Mart Bax’s claim that rivaling families in Medjugorje committed atrocities against each other while Bosnia and Hercegovina was plagued by civil war in 1992-95.
Frank van Kolfschooten Mart Bax made far-reaching claims in his book “Medjugorje: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Rural Bosnia”, published in 1995 and since then often cited by Medjugorje opponents. Frank van Kolfschooten is not the first to find that the claims cannot be verified:
In what Mart Bax termed “the little war”, he claimed that 140 residents of Medjugorje were killed, and that another 600 were forced to flee the region when a claimed dispute over the housing of a drastically decreasing number of pilgrims soon developed into bloodshed.
Medjugorje went undamaged through the war. Here, a Serbian cluster bomb has failed to explode, to instead drill its way into the sidewalk 100 meters from Saint James Church.
Mart Bax also wrote and published that mutilations and torture were carried out on a regular basis in nightly raids between the warring families. He further wrote that elements of the Croatian army sided in the conflict, resulting in a massacre that saw the death of 100 people by the same time.
Women, children and elderly were murdered, homes were burned, rocket launchers were used to cause members of a rivaling family to flee – and the victors offered up prayers of thanks to the Virgin Mary for her special grace and protection, Mart Bax further wrote.
Aside of Mart Bax’s writings, it was always undisputed that no person was killed in Medjugorje during the war. Damage to property and physical locations was very limited, and reports of divine intervention to protect Medjugorje even came from Serbian pilots who had standing orders to level the village with the ground.
Claims have been denied before
No death certificates exist on the 140 people Mart Bax claimed were murdered. The parish of Medjugorje denied Mart Bax’s claims in the parish bulletin when his book came out in 1995.
Fr. Ivan Landeka Later, no one in Medjugorje, priests or local citizens, could confirm the anthropologist’s claims when the Croatian daily Jutarnji List fact-checked Mart Bax’s work on Medjugorje in August 2008. Neither could Croatian or Bosnian university professors also asked by Jutarnji List. Internationally, the story made it to German media, but never to the English-speaking world.
“During the time of the war, there was neither murder, nor fighting. My impression is that Bax had the wrong informants, faulty sources, or did not understand the story he told. It is hard to tell what it was all about” said Fr. Ivan Landeka, parish priest in Medjugorje during the war.
Professor Mladen Ancic
“Mart Bax is ignorant and a poor anthropologist, and the problem is that he was a reputable publisher, and that researchers cite the nonsense that it is” Mladen Ancic, professor of philosophy at the University of Mostar, told Jutarnji List.
“When I came across these things, I ordered and read the book, then went back to Hercegovina to hear if anyone knew about this. Of course, no one did.”“After that, I trailed the books that he cites. When you go to his notes and references in the bibliography, you see that it is all made up. Secondly, it can be seen that he never picked up some of the books that he cites” said professor Mladen Ancic.
Against these and other accusations, Mart Bax will have the opportunity to defend himself when Free University of Amsterdam proceeds with its investigation of possible scientific fraud. At this point, Mart Bax remains silent.
“I have approached him several times to have an explanation, but he has not responded” the Dutch investigate reporter Frank van Kolfschooten tells Elsevier.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau had only little more luck. “I have put that behind me” Mart Bax replied when the paper approached him for a comment. Join our pilgrimage, attend an apparition!
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