Scotland remembers victims of Srebrenica massacre

By agency reporter
July 13, 2015

Scotland remembered the victims of the Srebrenica massacre at a memorial service in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, on Friday July 10 to mark the 20th anniversary of the atrocity.

The Rt Rev Angus Morrison delivered the sermon at the memorial service, which also included remarks from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and from the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood. This week is the 20th anniversary of the massacre in which more than 8,000 Bosnian men were killed by Serbian forces despite the presence of UN peacekeepers.

The Moderator said his visit to Srebrenica in February and his meeting with the Mothers of Srebrenica had been one of the most moving experiences of his life:

"My most vivid memory is of our group's meeting, on the night we arrived, with several of the Mothers of Srebrenica," he said. "Their quiet courage and love, their total commitment to the pursuit of justice, and refusal to give way to hatred and vengeance, made an enormous impression that evening, not just on me, but on us all.

"The desire of these remarkable ladies was clear: Let the story of Srebrenica be told – told all over Europe and beyond—so that the lessons of Srebrenica might be well learned, so that other mothers and wives and sisters would not have to endure the pain which has been theirs to know so deeply."

After WWII, Europeans vowed to never again allow genocide on the continent. But the conflict that saw Yugoslavia break up into independent states included more than one mass killing as well as the mass rape of women and girls.

The genocide occurred in July 1995, when 20,000 refugees fled to Srebrenica to escape Bosnian Serb forces fighting the Muslim-led Bosnian government. Four Hundred UN Dutch soldiers were supposed to be protecting the besieged enclave. But paramilitary troops under the command of Gen Ratko Mladic overran the area, rounded up more than 80,000 men and boys and killed them. They were buried in mass graves, but later exhumed and scattered across the landscape in an attempt to cover up the massacre.

Gen Mladic was finally arrested in 2011 after 16 years in hiding. He remains on trial for war crimes at the UN tribunal in The Hague.

The First Minister said Srebrenica had shattered the illusion that genocide could never happen again in Europe.

"We must learn those lessons," she said. "We must understand what it is that turns people into those who can commit acts of such horror, and by understanding know better how to prevent that happening in the future."

Remembering Srebrenica aims not only to make sure the victims of Srebrenica will never be forgotten, but also to bring attention to the dangers of ethnic and religious violence and to support community building aimed at preventing future atrocities.

The memorial was organised by the board of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland. The Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, who chairs the board, first visited Srebrenica during her year as Moderator and has since returned twice, taking others with her. From those visits a group of people came together as the Remembering Srebrenica Scotland board, including: Ruth Davidson MSP, David Hamilton, John Corrigan and Seonag Mackinnon.

The Moderator's sermon urged all people to help create peace in the world.

"Today we remember the unspeakable events which took place at Srebrenica, only twenty years ago, and their ongoing consequences," he said."It is an abiding stain on our European continent and our modern democracies.

"But in honour of all who have suffered and continue to suffer on account of this great evil, let us find courage and the commitment to move from simply keeping the peace, and commit ourselves to the costly path of peacemaking and reconciliation in the place where we ourselves happen to live, in troubled Bosnia and Herzegovina, and around a broken world. May we all be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds."

* Church of Scotland http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/home

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