Emdad Rahman: The Solemn Commemoration for the UK National Srebrenica Memorial Day has taken place at Westminster Abbey. The memorial service honoured the victims and survivors of Srebrenica.
The killing was perpetrated by units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) under the command of General Ratko Mladic. The Secretary-General of the United Nations described the mass murder as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.
The Service commemorated the 8,372 men and boys massacred in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995, during the Balkans conflict of 1992 to 1995.
Those in attendance reflected on the lessons of Srebrenica in the 20th anniversary year of the genocide, and looked forward with hope for the reconciliation of peoples and faiths.
In attendance amongst others were Eric Pickles MP, The Baroness Warsi, former Deputy PM Nick Clegg, Hillary Benn MP and London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi and Barking & Dagenham council leader Darren Rodwell.
In a moving speech Munira Subasic, President of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association said: "I don't want to talk about politics, ethnic divisions and religious differences. I speak to you as a human being and a mother. I stand before you, and you look at me as free people. Often, I stand before the murderers of our children and they look at me in the same way as you do. Free!
"Although it has been twenty years since this inhuman atrocity, some mothers are still searching for the bones of their children. Our children were systematically murdered twenty years ago, but we still cannot bury them with dignity. I live in a country where those who killed our children are now police officers.
"Help us find the bones of our children! Ease our suffering by protecting the mother from the murderer of her child. Take the uniforms off our children's murderers. If there was no justice and mercy for more than 10,000 innocent men, women and children systematically murdered back in 1995, then please shown some mercy and justice today.
"I appeal to you to stand by us to protect the most important human values. Stand shoulder to shoulder with us in challenging hatred and intolerance. Together, we can create a better, safer, stronger world."
His Excellency Husein Kavazovic, read excerpts from the Holy Quran (81: 1-14 Surah At Takwir and 3: 8-9 Surah Al - Imran) from the Great Lectern.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said in a message: "Srebrenica will forever be associated with one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century."
There were prayers, hymns, anthems and there were special addresses from Bakir Izetbegovic, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina and UK Secretary of State Phillip Hammond MP.
Chelsea and Manchester United target and Bosnian number one Asmir Begovic said: "It's really made me happy to see so many faces, young and old and so many faiths and nationalities. There's even school children here today. Education and awareness is important. We are humans - Together we are always stronger."
In his service notes Dr Waqar Azmi OBE, Chairman of Remembering Srebrenica reflected on the dehumanising beliefs that led to genocide. He said: "We all have to take action to remember the slain, and prevent the consequences of unchallenged hatred."
Abdal Ahmed from the Muslim Sports Council (MSC) attended the event he said: "It has been harrowing to listen to the testimonies of the survivors. Even now many of the bodies of the loved ones are still missing. It is crucial that we educate humanity and encourage tolerance at all times because it was a lack of this very thing that caused such a catastrophic event in human history."
Yahya Sidatt, co-founder of MSC added: "This is a dark period of human history. Nothing will bring back the beloved lost ones but what we must do is work as one to ensure this never happens again. The MSC is committed in it's support of all just causes and we will do whatever is in our power to promote tolerance and understanding of each other.
In 1993, Srebrenica had been declared a UN Safe Area, under the watch of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR). In July 1995, Bosnian Serb paramilitary units overran and captured the town, despite its designation as an area 'free from any armed attack or any other hostile act.'
In the days following Srebrenica's fall, 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically massacred and buried in mass graves. It was the greatest atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.
In 1999, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote: “Through error, misjudgement and an inability to recognise the scope of the evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to help save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder.”
This year is the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. The United Kingdom’s Srebrenica Memorial Week runs from Sunday 5 July to Sunday 12 July.
The theme this year is ‘Living the lessons’ – allowing survivors to tell their stories so that:
• Survivors can keep alive the memory of Srebrenica, teaching younger generations the consequences of hatred and intolerance.
• They can help combat hatred, as well as genocide denial and allow everyone to better understand what it’s like to live with the atrocity’s legacy; and
• People taking part in the activities can explain the impact of their involvement, highlighting how they have engaged with other community groups to foster stronger community relations.
• They can demonstrate key work they have done in their communities to help tackle hatred and intolerance.
There are hundreds of memorial events happening across the United Kingdom during Srebrenica Memorial Week.
Visit the website below to find out more.