I was privileged to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina last week with a delegation, which was organised by Remembering Srebrenica. I hope what I am about to share with you, will help you to understand the physical and mental journey that I have taken to understand what it really means to hate, forgive and survive the Srebrenica genocide.
Srebrenica is a lecture to the whole of the world, what happens when the powers fail their exams. The Serbians would never have systematically massacred 8,392 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, if they were not allowed by the powers such as the UN. As the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote in 1999:
“Through error, misjudgement and an inability to recognise the scope of the evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to help save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder.”
My journey to Srebrenica was an eye opening experience. One of the hard hitting realisations was that the only difference between the two sides was their religion. As one of the survivor of the Srebrenica genocide, Hasan Hasanovic said “They didn’t care that we were unarmed. Their primary concern was that we were Muslim and they wanted us dead.”
Those mothers, who had lost most of their loved ones, had bought tears to our eyes. Almost 20 years after the genocide, they are still fighting for justice for their relatives.
There was not a dry eye after our meeting with the Mothers. It was moving just to be in their presence. There words and message were inspirational. They had a message of hope and strength in the face of overwhelming suffering, and for our own communities back home in the UK a lesson that all of us as individuals must speak out against hatred. For such thoughts and words can so easily spill over into violence. In Bosnia there is no visible difference between the Muslim and Orthodox Christian populations. Nor do they speak a different tongue. Yet violence so easily overtook this area.
When I asked the surviving mothers, what I can do to help, they said to me, “spread love and not hate. Share what you have learned here with others because every life is precious”
Therefore, I have learned that hate is a very powerful human emotion that can lead people to do very evil and unimaginable inhumane acts. But love can lift the human spirit to endure pain, loss and struggle to become a survivor and a positive energy that can in turn heal the hearts of many. Love can help people to see the good in our differences, regardless of religion, gender or nationality, just like the mother who said to us that she sees us as her children.