Local Councillors and Community representatives this week welcomed a survivor of the Bosnian conflict to the City for a series of engagements promoting positive dialogue and peace building.
Elvira Mujkanovic was only 18 years old when Bosnian Serb forces attacked her home town, which became home to the notorious Trnopolje Concentration Camp.
Elvira witnessed many atrocities during her time in confinement before escaping with her mother to a refugee camp in Croatia.
She now lives in Scotland with her husband after being safely evacuated by the Red Cross.
The visit this week follows on from a notice of motion endorsed by Council members in July, recommending that Council pledge its support to the Remembering Srebrenica organisation and look at ways to understand and commemorate the Srebrenica genocide and the Balkan conflict of the early 1990’s.
Remembering Srebrenica UK is committed to using the lessons from the Srebrenica atrocity to tackle hatred and intolerance to help to build a better, safer and more cohesive society for everyone.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mayor Warke said it provided an opportunity to share experiences and explore new ways of promoting peace between divided communities:
While we have come a long way in our own journey towards peace, we are still working to overcome challenges and we can learn a lot from other societies similarly emerging from conflict situations.
Local groups had the opportunity to explore issues such as polarisation and discrimination, which sadly continue to be prevalent in our own communities.
It was very useful to gauge new perspectives on these issues and I hope this will feed into shaping our approaches going forwards.
Council’s Good Relations Team has been working with the Remembering Srebrenica’s Regional Board NI to design and develop events to coincide this month with today’s visit.
An online discussion took place last week, focusing on the background to the Bosnian War, the Troubles in the North of Ireland and exploring issues common to both regions such as acknowledgement, justice and peace building.
Speaking after her visit, Elvira Mujkanovic, said:
I was thrilled to see how beautiful this city is and how well people from different backgrounds are representing their history, culture and rights while working and collaborating together.
The lesson from Bosnia, where we have experienced so much trouble and trauma through religious and identity prejudices, is that dialogue and respect are critical to moving forward constructively.
Diversity is good. I am proud of how diverse Bosnia is. It is something to celebrate and protect. Bosnia and this region have so much in common.
I hope we can continue to learn from each other and support each other in what will inevitable be difficult days still to come as we continue the toughest battle of all – to build and sustain peace while cherishing our diversity.”
The visit included engagements at the Siege Museum and Museum of Free Derry and concluded with an online event for local community groups asking 26 years later if the respective peace agreements at Dayton and Belfast have ended the violence but failed to build the peace.