Harrowing and inspiring in Srebrenica

Moderator reflects on visit to Srebrenica to mark anniversary of genocide

The Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

By Calum Macleod

Visiting a town where more than 8,000 men and boys were massacred was one of the most harrowing yet inspiring experiences of her life, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has revealed.

The Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton said it was harrowing to come face to face with the inhumanity human beings are capable of and inspiring to meet victims who call for peace and share the lessons of reconciliation with the world.

She said the trip to Srebrenica in Bosnia provided a stark reminder that merely living alongside each other is not good enough and people must embrace differences and “live with each other”.

Britain and the USA stood idly by while the Bosnian Serb army murdered more than 8,300 people, mainly Muslim men and boys, between the 11th and 16th of July, 1995.

It is a chilling reminder of what can happen when unchecked racism and intolerance takes hold.

Sally visited the town in 2015 as part of a delegation led by the Remembering Srebrenica Scotland charity, which commemorates the genocide and promotes community cohesion and tolerance through the lessons learned.

The organisation’s first chairperson was the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood OBE, pictured right, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2013-14.

The 28th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre is being marked against the backdrop of the Ukraine-Russia war which has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced.

Sally said the ongoing conflict is a reminder that humanity can never be complacent and is encouraging Church congregations to mark the Srebrenica anniversary to ensure what happened there is “not allowed to fade into a history that doesn’t learn” and inspire work to build a safe, tolerant and cohesive society, at home and abroad.

She said: “The theme for my year as Moderator centres on a South African word, Ubuntu, most closely translated ‘I am because you are.’

“Ubuntu encapsulates the powerful truth that human beings are meant for each other, that we are intricately interrelated.

“We cannot be fully human without others to be human with, and we are called to cherish the sacred nature of each human person.

“We also know how fragile we are and how quickly relationships fracture when we forget we are one.

“In 2015, I went to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the charity Remembering Srebrenica Scotland.

“It was one of the most harrowing, inspiring and transformational experiences of my life.

“To hear from those who experienced the frightening and rapid un-raveling of their long-time co-existence, taught me that ‘living alongside’ each other is not good enough.

“We must be willing to ‘live with’ each other, be part of each other, embrace our differences and not let them define us.”

Sally said she attended a Remembering Srebrenica Scotland event shortly after the Manchester bombing in May 2017.

“I met a man from Srebrenica and he had that day’s newspaper with him. It contained an article that stated ‘they killed our children,” she recalled.

“He asked me ‘who are ‘they’ and who are ‘our’?

“That has always stuck with me. ‘Othering’ one another can so quickly lead to dehumanizing, and that step brings hate and violence frighteningly close. How we speak to, and about, our neighbours matters.

“I invite congregations across the Church to remember Srebrenica, to pray, learn and remember ‘I am because you are.’

“I encourage people to use the resources made available by Remembering Srebrenica Scotland in the hope that we might all be informed and alert to the consequences of forgetting that we are all part of one global neighbourhood, intricately inter-related and completely co-dependent.”

The Srebrenica Memorial and Cemetery commemorates the victims of the 1995 genocide. Work continues to identify the more than 8,000 men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces. Photograph credit: John Young.

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