“I grew up with the harrowing scenes of the war in Bosnia on our television screens – watching neighbour turn against neighbour, friend against friend, ethnicity against ethnicity. I will never forget the Omarska concentration camp, and that ethnic cleansing, systematic mass rape and genocide were all happening in Europe. These were the darkest moments in our lifetime and we owe it to the victims to learn the lesson of Srebrenica: that the evil of hatred, racism and bigotry must be confronted if we are to create a better and safer society for all.
For me, Bosnia was a horrific reminder of the vulnerability of ordinary people. It made me question how this could happen on our doorstep when the world had pledged ‘never again’ after World War II. And if the xenophobic claims of ethnic superiority could prevail amongst white indigenous people who are assimilated and have lived together for hundreds of years, what chance do ethnic minority communities have in Europe? This horrific atrocity made such an impact upon my life that in 1996, I decided to leave academia to take up a job as Chief Executive of Worcestershire Racial Equality Council to work towards the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the promotion of good race relations. I have continued to work in this area in different capacities, leading to the establishment of the charitable initiative Remembering Srebrenica.
“These were the darkest moments in our lifetime and we owe it to the victims to learn the lesson of Srebrenica.”
On Srebrenica Memorial Day, we honour the victims and survivors of the genocide, and pledge to commit ourselves to creating a cohesive society for everyone. We will continue to commemorate this day each year in the UK and do follow up work by running Lessons from Srebrenica visits to Bosnia to learn first-hand about the genocide, as well as lead year-round public awareness campaigns and activities to teach the consequences of hatred.
Our aim is to encourage everyone in our society to learn about the consequences of hate and discrimination. We would want to work with local organisations to establish local commemorations in different cities and towns, encourage school projects and local community relations work so that people have the opportunity to play their part, however big or small, in helping to create a better and safer society for everyone.
There is no doubt that in Britain we have come a long way on race relations and achieved a lot. However, we must also recognise that there is still a lot to do. Racism, discrimination and the promotion of hatred, continues to persist. We must recognise the dangers of these and understand that failure to play our part can result in something gruesome. The Srebrenica Memorial Day, therefore, is important not just as an act of remembrance but as a lesson for generations to come. I want children of today, who did not grow up with those terrible scenes of genocide on their televisions, to not only know what happened in that Bosnian enclave, but to also pledge ‘never again’.”