11th July 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of a massacre that happened in Bosnia where over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed. While it has been described as the greatest atrocity in Europe since the Second World War, very few people have even heard about it! It took place in and around a town called Srebrenica and some of the young volunteers from The Feast visited this June to learn about it.
Remembering Srebrenica, a charity whose purpose is described by its name, invited The Feast to take 5 young adults with them on a trip to Bosnia to learn about the war and also about the Srebrenica massacre. I went with 5 of our young volunteers, Hanna, Sahil, Paul, Mayah and Bushra. We were joined on the trip by 7 other adults from different faith groups.
How do I even begin to describe this trip?! It was stunning, heart-breaking, shocking, powerful and information rich. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautiful country that has a tragic recent history. Once thriving and multi-cultural to the point that it gave visitors to the capital city free accommodation for their first 3 nights to allow them time to find work and a place to stay, it is still recovering from the aftermath of a war that tore it apart.
I cannot do justice to the history of this country. Nor can I, in a blog post, begin to tell you about the events that lead to a massacre in July 2005, to learn about that (and I implore you to), please visit www.srebrenica.org.uk. What I can do is share one of the comments that remained with me from the trip.
One of our hosts when commenting on the war and particularly the siege of the capital city Sarajevo, said:
“It is not good enough to be neighbours, you need to live with one another”
He was referring to the fact that before the war, Sarajevo was diverse and thriving. The differences between people were celebrated. But during the war that changed as the differences became dividing lines.
This was a reminder for us at The Feast that the work that we do during relative peacetimes is so important. We want young people to learn how to live well with one another, to become friends, to share their lives and their stories with one another so that their differences are acknowledged and talked about but do not become divisive, so that they become the peacemakers as they stand up for people that are different.
We want to do everything we can to ensure that in 20 years’ time we are not learning about another atrocity like this, but rather that we are celebrating the beauty we have created through diverse friendships.