Last night I joined Faith leaders from all six East London boroughs in the Remembering Srebrenica Memorial event, marking the 25th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica, described by the United Nations as ‘the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War’.
On 11 July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces, led by General Ratko Mladić overran and captured the town of Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia which had been declared a UN Safe Area. In the days following, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves. Thousands of women, children and the elderly were forcibly deported.
Srebrenica was a culmination of a campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' used by Bosnian Serb forces during the conflict. This was implemented to achieve the aim of a 'Greater Serbia', free from non-Serbs. Throughout Bosnia, between 20,000-50,000 women and girls suffered sexual violence, a weapon of war used to systematically ethnically cleanse the region and terrorise the populace. Concentration camps were established in the Prijedor area, and many Bosnian Muslims were forced from their homes to be internally displaced or become refugees.
The genocide at Srebrenica was officially recognised by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague. Yet denial of this atrocity remains widespread.
The lessons of Srebrenica remain as important today for us in Redbridge and the UK as they ever have: that hatred and intolerance can flourish if left unchallenged. Even in Bosnia in 1995, in the heart of Europe, even after the atrocities of the Second World War and the familiar cry ‘Never Again’, even in a place where people of many faiths had lived as neighbours for centuries, an integrated society disintegrated, and genocide was allowed to be perpetrated.
At 7pm tomorrow evening, 11th July, the UK National Srebrenica Memorial Day Commemoration will be broadcast online on the Remembering Srebrenica Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Accounts. Speakers will include HRH Prince Charles, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UN Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie. You can read more about the Srebrenica genocide on the Remembering Srebrenica website https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/ which was the source for much of the information in this Shabbat message.
The theme of this year’s Memorial event is Every Action Matters. As Jews who understand all too well the consequences of not taking action against hate, let’s pledge ourselves to dedicating our own actions great and small, individually and as a community to speaking out and acting out against hate, and to creating a better, stronger, and more cohesive society in the United Kingdom.
Shabbat Shalom, Stay Safe and Be Well,