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Remembering Srebrenica: standing up and speaking out

Release Date: 13 Jul 2018

This week is the 23rd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, during which more than 8,000 Muslim Bozniaks, mostly men and boys, were killed.

This horrific event took place during the Bosnian war, an armed conflict that was part of the breakup of Yugoslavia.

The Srebrenica genocide remains the most serious war crime in Europe since the Second World War.

I visited the site of this atrocity last September with the Lessons From Srebrenica educational programme – run by the charity Remembering Srebrenica. It was a profound and moving experience that made me more committed than ever to standing up and speaking out on behalf of children and families who have experienced life-altering trauma.

Srebrenica Memorial Week runs until Sunday 15 July. It aims to motivate people of all ages to strengthen their communities by challenging hatred and intolerance.

The theme this year is ‘acts of courage’.

At Barnardo’s I see and hear about acts of extraordinary courage every day.  By far the bravest people I know are the children, young people and families we support, many of whom have experienced neglect, abuse or violence.

Last month Barnardo’s Northern Ireland welcomed our 1,000th refugee through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. That’s 1,000 people who’ve had to leave everything they know because of hatred and intolerance.

I’m incredibly proud of the role we play in helping these families settle into their new lives, stay safe, and gain the confidence to thrive. Syrian parents have shown immense courage in uprooting their families and moving thousands of miles to protect them from conflict and persecution. They often tell us they feel fortunate to be safe and to have food and shelter for their children, but they miss their relatives and the home they will probably never see again.

Today, around the world, there are millions of people are being driven from the country where they were born. Closer to home, across Europe and in America, we're seeing a new wave of nationalism and a resurgence of racial and religious intolerance. Hate crime is rising, as people already feeling angry and disenfranchised are empowered by divisive rhetoric on the news and on social media.

Srebrenica is a dark stain on humanity and it happened on our doorstep, in a seemingly well-integrated society.

It’s a reminder to all of us that peace and stability are more fragile than we realise. And it’s our duty as an equal and tolerant society to open our eyes and the eyes of others to the consequences of hate and discrimination to make sure nothing like it can happen again.

We know that standing up and speaking out takes courage. The children and young people we see in our child sexual abuse and trafficking services teach us that every day by bravely coming forward to disclose their abuse.

As adults, we set the example to children and young people to embrace their differences; treat everyone with love and respect; and not to stand idly by when they see people’s rights and welfare at risk.

This week, as we remember the Srebrenica genocide, we should all remind ourselves and each other to stand up and speak out.

By Javed Khan

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