Welsh faith leaders take part in Lessons from Srebrenica

Remembering Srebrenica took a group of Welsh faith leaders to Srebrenica during the middle of October, for the first time bringing together a delegation entirely made up of a large number of denominations. The following offers their collective thoughts, beginning with the unity that they came to feel as a group.

For Vimla Patel OBE “it was an amazing opportunity, and the memories, the persons and experiences shared will live long in my memory.” Abdul-Azim Ahmed, Muslim Youth Wales & Muslim Council of Wales, echoed these sentiments revealing that: “The experience was amazing, moving, heart-breaking at times, and incredibly hopeful at times. The opportunity to learn such important lessons, not alone but with a group, was valuable beyond measure. No doubt there will many from the delegation who will be able to act as witnesses to the suffering and atrocities in Srebrenica to others.”

Father Gareth Jones, Catholic Chaplain at Cardiff University revealed that: “The memories of our group’s time together and the people and experiences shared will live long in my memory and be the subject of much prayerful reflection.”

Much like previous visits, the visit provided an unforgettable insight into an event of which many delegates previously had little knowledge. Vimla sums this sentiment up well with her comments describing the trip as “very awakening and heart aching”.  She goes onto say that “meeting with the mothers of victims was very touching.  I salute those mothers for their courage and patience.  May God bless them with peace.”

Jim Stewart, Evangelical Alliance Wales, echoed this sentiment with: “It was a truly unforgettable time and we were all touched by the Bosnian people and the suffering they have gone through. I hope that our experience in Bosnia will bear much fruit in our communities.”

For others the visit was a transformative experience. Mohammed Alamgir Ahmed describes being shaken to “the core of me, and it’s extremely difficult to try to explain to others why”. He goes onto say that “having seen, heard and experienced all that I did through Remembering Srebrenica my outlook has changed completely. I experienced true courage and bravery and emotional resilience that is incomparable with anything we have in Wales.”

A positive aspect that has emerged for Mohammed is his greater appreciation of the greater safety and security of the UK, to which he adds “I have realised my problems are insufficient when compared to those who went through the war in Bosnia.”
Unsurprisingly, many of the delegates returned wanting to foster positive change. Nirmala Pisavadia, Hindu Council of Wales, has “already started sharing our experiences and information about Srebrenica and the genocide. On the plane I was sitting next to a lady from Bulgaria and she wanted to learn all about our trip and in the end she said ‘you have opened my eyes to atrocities, many of which I had no knowledge about’. She was nearly in tears.”

Dr Nafis Ahmad, retired Justice of the Peace in County Gwent has pledged that: “God willing I will make people aware of this in public community action I attend at different organisations. I have already started talking to people about my experience…and hope that tomorrow will be better and safer  by learning these lessons.”

Summing up what so many have taken away from their visit to the country, Stanley Soffa, Jewish Reform Synagogue, reveals that: “The genocide in Bosnia should remind us that all too often members of our different faiths are the subject of terrible acts of discrimination and violence and that the phrase ‘never again’ can only be brought to fruition by members of these different faiths getting to know each other and accepting that while we currently may have irreconcilable differences there are many, many similarities upon which we can try to build a future of common acceptance, understanding and goodness.”