blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff
Every year on July 11, thousands from around the world pour into the small, Eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica to commemorate the tragic deaths of over 7,000 Bosnian men and boys that left the world in shock and disbelief in 1995. This year, 775 bodies were laid to rest at the Potocari memorial cemetery, further proving that this genocide was the worst of its kind in Europe since the Holocaust. Many around the world relive this tragic event every year on this date and mourn the losses that not only Bosnia but also the world in general experienced, but one question remains heavy on my mind- where does the responsibility lie that will guarantee that the tragedy of genocide will never happen again? When I traveled to Srebrenica in March of 2010, I saw a completely different Srebrenica than the one I saw for the first time on July 11, 2009. Why? Srebrenica has become a spectacle to the point where the town has an “on” and “off” season. During the month of July, the town and surrounding areas are swarming with reporters, government officials, and visitors from around the world, jumping at the bit to experience the journey back in time to 1995. They vow to never let genocide happen again and continue along their way. One begins to wonder- what about the other 364 days of the year? Do these government officials remember their promises when they return to their home countries and allow violence, hatred, and ethnic tension to permeate their nations’ infrastructures? Do they really do everything in their power to help Bosnia recover from its tragic past and continue towards a more peaceful future? Many of these questions leave people without an answer. One group of people who remain ignored are the people whose daily lives are affected by this phenomenon- the residents of Srebrenica. The residents of Srebrenica are left abandoned, overshadowed by the dark past their town and country have experienced. I had the opportunity to speak with the youth in Srebrenica, and many of them expressed their resounding desire to not let the past of their town shape their future. They work towards inter-ethnic peace, reconciliation, and cooperation, all the while attempting to protect themselves from the international media who often try to define them or their town based on the part of Srebrenica’s history that sells newspapers. That alone, in my opinion, is a step backwards from peace. This is not a lost battle, but the world must realize that a tragedy like the one in Srebrenica in 1995 is not something that should only be discussed and remembered one day per year- it should be remembered every day. A daily commemoration is not necessary, but constant acts of kindness, peace, acceptance, and love can collectively make the world a more peaceful place. I believe my friends in Srebrenica would agree with me.
Editor’s Note: Future GYC Programs in Bosnia-Herzegovina can be found at http://globlayouthconnect.org/apply.html