Humanity has lived through the darkest of times, but few events have stained our collective soul more than the genocide of Srebrenica.
It seems unbelievable that just twenty years ago, inhumane ethnic cleansing would return to the heart of Europe. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systemically murdered in what was supposed to be a UN safe zone.
Dehumanisation leading to genocide is not new. In Nazi Germany, Jews were labeled as sub-human and likened to vermin. Hutu killers in Rwanda referred to Tutsi victims as cockroaches. Stripped of possessions, livelihoods, dignity and their essential humanity, Bosnian Muslims suffered a similar fate.
Described by the United Nations as ‘the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War’, the massacres at Srebrenica were classed as genocide by both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia.
The lessons learned from Srebrenica are that hatred and intolerance can flourish if left unchallenged. Even in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where people of different faiths had lived peacefully together for many years, an integrated society disintegrated.
In 2009, the European Parliament declared 11th July, the official day of remembrance for the victims of Srebrenica. On this day each year, we are asked to honour the victims and survivors of the genocide, and pledge ourselves to creating a better, stronger and more cohesive society.
The Srebrenica genocide is truly one of the darkest moments of human history since the Second World War. Thousands of innocent lives were taken in the name of nationalistic pride and because of their family names.
We must all understand the consequences of leaving hatred and intolerance unchallenged. By confronting these twin evils, we give ourselves hope of illuminating the darkness and creating a better, safer and stronger society for all.
You are peace.
From you comes peace,
To you returns peace.
Revive us with a salutation of peace,
And lead us to your abode of peace.