On the eve of the 28th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, a remarkable event took place in Bosnia. Jews and Muslims came together to discuss how their shared pain and experiences can be harnessed to combat hate and bigotry. This gathering, organized by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Srebrenica Memorial Center, aimed to preserve the collective memory of genocide victims and confront Holocaust and genocide denial. The conference served as a platform for both communities to explore the challenges of living with the aftermath of genocide and work towards a world free from such atrocities.
Shared History of Pain
The Srebrenica massacre, which occurred in July 1995, remains Europe’s only recognized genocide since the Holocaust. More than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were brutally killed when Bosnian Serb troops seized control of the eastern town. Two U.N. courts have unequivocally declared this horrific event as genocide. The magnitude of the tragedy underscores the importance of collective remembrance and the prevention of future atrocities.
Forging a Shared Path Forward
Menachem Rosensaft, the general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, stressed the critical nature of Jewish-Muslim collaboration in remembering the past to safeguard the future. By recognizing and understanding each other’s pain, these communities can constructively work together to build a world where the unimaginable horror of genocide becomes a thing of the past. Rosensaft, himself the child of Holocaust survivors, emphasized the necessity of joining forces to ensure that such atrocities never occur again.
Confronting Denial and Conveying Truth
The conference sought to address the denial of genocide, which continues to plague the region. Serb leaders in Bosnia and neighboring Serbia persistently deny the Srebrenica genocide, despite ongoing efforts to identify the remains of victims and bring them to a proper resting place. By confronting Holocaust denial and genocide denial head-on, the conference aimed to challenge the narratives that perpetuate hatred, promote truth, and combat bigotry.
Preserving Collective Memory
Preserving the collective memory of genocide victims is vital to understanding the impact of such atrocities. The conference highlighted the importance of commemorations and remembrance ceremonies, such as the annual reburial of newly identified Srebrenica victims. These events serve as a somber reminder of the lives lost and reinforce the commitment to justice and healing.
Lessons for the Future
The Srebrenica massacre was the culmination of Bosnia’s devastating 1992-95 war, born out of nationalistic fervor and territorial ambitions. The conference attendees recognized the need to learn from history and create a world where the divisions that led to such violence are eliminated. By fostering understanding, tolerance, and dialogue, Jews and Muslims can play a pivotal role in building bridges across communities, dismantling prejudice, and working together to prevent future genocides.
The joint gathering of Jews and Muslims in Bosnia on the eve of the Srebrenica massacre anniversary underscores the power of shared pain and the potential for unity in the face of hate. By harnessing their collective experiences, these communities can confront denial, preserve the memory of victims, and work towards a world free from bigotry and violence. As they remember the victims of Srebrenica, Jews and Muslims demonstrate that remembrance is not just about the past, but also about shaping a better future for generations to come.