Remembering Srebrenica memorial shows why we must unite against hate

Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood hosted Scotland’s 2016 Srebrenica Memorial Day Commemoration at Cathcart Old Parish Church on 15 July.

Srebrenica memorial service
Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood hosted the Srebrenica memorial service at Cathcart Old Parish Church.

The commemoration service, honouring the 8,000 boys and men who were massacred in what’s been called the worst atrocity in Europe since WWII included music, prayer, a candle lighting ceremony, and stories from survivors of the genocide,

“It was a very moving and emotional service that brought together MPs, MSPs, local councillors and people from many different faiths," Dr Hood said.

”We had survivors there, including Nedžad Avdić a survivor who travelled to the event from Srebrenica to tell his story. He was shot and left among a pile of the dead. But he was still alive and he told us how he got to safety. Everyone there was very moved by his story.

“We also heard from Elvira Rahman, who was a teenager at the time and became a refugee who has since settled in Scotland. She has been making a film about her experiences and we watched the film at the service. When Srebrenica was occupied she saw one of the soldiers was a friend. Only a few days earlier they had been sitting in a café together. When she told us that she just broke down.”

During the Balkans conflict of 1992-1995 Srebrenica had been named a UN Safe Area, under the watch of the United Nations Protection Force.

But Serbian forces under the command of General Ratko Mladić overran the city, rounded up 8,000 boys and men and systematically executed them, burying their bodies in mass graves. At the same time thousands of women, children and elderly people were forcibly deported and a large number of women were raped.

The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ruled the massacre a genocide. One judge said these were, “truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.”

Among those lighting a candle at the service was Professor Marie Cassidy, state pathologist for the Republic of Ireland, who worked to identify the thousands of remains.

On display in the church were paintings about the massacre by artist Robert McNeil MBE, vice chair of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, who also worked on identifying the remains.

Dr Hood said remembering the Srebrenica genocide is crucial because it teaches us this can happen anywhere when racism and hate speech is allowed to flourish.

“People often say it couldn’t happen here. But Bosnians and Serbs were living together in peace in Srebrenica and nobody thought it could happen there,” she says.

“How can it happen that people who have been living together as friends can become enemies?

“All it takes is for someone like Ratko Mladić or Radovan Karadžić to stir up the bigotry, prejudice and hatred that is within all of us through bringing up memories of long ago wars.

“When Mladić marched into Srebrenica he said it was time to take revenge for the Turkish invasion of 1389.

“This can happen anywhere when racism and hatred isn’t challenged.

“That is why we have to unite against hatred and challenge racism and hate speech wherever it occurs.”

Dr Hood says Remembering Srebrenica Scotland is taking that message into schools with an education pack produced with the Scottish Government. The pack, which fits into the Curriculum for Excellence, was piloted last year and has been praised as a superb resource for schools.

Dr Hood expressed her gratitude to Rev Neil Galbraith on behalf of the Scottish Board of Remembering Srebrenica for use of the church premises and for hosting of the event.