Remembering Srebrenica is taking an interfaith “Lessons from Srebrenica” delegation to Bosnia this week to learn how lessons from the worst atrocity on European soil since World War Two can be used to help create a better, safer and stronger society in Northern Ireland.
The delegation is the first from Northern Ireland and will be led by Dr Ahmed Helmy, who is chair of the Northern Ireland Board of Remembering Srebrenica and former chair of the Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum (NIIF). He will be joined by seven other key members of the interfaith community in Belfast, including members of Northern Ireland Muslim Family Association, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, Counselling All Nations Services and the Methodist Church in Ireland.
They will also be joined by Caitríona Ruane MLA, Principal Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, who hosted Remembering Srebrenica’s multi-faith memorial event at Stormont on 14th July which featured interfaith prayers from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Baha’i faiths and survivor testimony from a Kosovan refugee now living in Northern Ireland.
Dr Helmy said: “It is very important for Northern Ireland’s interfaith community to learn the lessons from Srebrenica, so I am proud to be leading our first delegation to Bosnia. We have a strong board who are committed to making a difference and building stronger communities united against hatred.”
The group will learn about the genocide in Srebrenica which happened 21 years ago when General Ratko Mladić and his Bosnian Serb forces marched into the town of Srebrenica and systematically murdered 8372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. The delegation will hear from survivors of the genocide and relatives of the victims, as well as the British Ambassador and officials from the International Commission on Missing Persons which has spearheaded the effort to locate and identify the 40,000 people who went missing during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.
The lessons from Srebrenica visit is part of Remembering Srebrenica’s wider education programme which has seen 21,000 young people learning the lessons from Srebrenica. The charity also organises memorial events across the UK to mark the EU-wide day of remembrance for the victims of the genocide.
Remembering Srebrenica’s Chairman, Dr Waqar Azmi OBE, said: “Taking leaders from the interfaith community in Northern Ireland on our programme sends a powerful message that, 21 years after the genocide, we are determined not only remember the victims, but to take action to prevent similar atrocities happening again.
“Never has it been more important for us to learn the lessons from Srebrenica. We must take action to build better and safer societies for all, otherwise those who spread divisive messages will go unchallenged in their efforts to breed hatred and intolerance.”
The ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ educational visit programme will be taking a number of high profile delegations out throughout the next three years. This year the participants include MPs, faith leaders, teachers, barristers, journalists and students all of whom pledge to organise projects in their communities to strengthen community cohesion and create a better society on their return.