Imams and Rabbis jointly visit Srebrenica – August 2017

A group of senior Jewish and Muslim faith leaders are visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina to take part in an interfaith visit to the site of the worst atrocity on European soil since World War Two. The visit is organized in continued cooperation between the Joseph Interfaith Foundation and the charity Remembering Srebrenica.

The Imams and Rabbis, who come from some of the largest Mosques and Synagogues in London, are members of the Foundation’s National Council of Imams and Rabbis. They will visit the places where the atrocities against the Muslim population in Bosnia took place and also hear from survivors and relatives of the victims.

Mehri Niknam MBE, the Executive Director of the Foundation, who is leading the delegation said:
“One of the major aims of the visit is to enable the Imams and Rabbis to learn as a group the suffering of the Muslim victims of genocide in Bosnia, and to share the lessons of the genocide of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. We hope that this sharing and understanding of human suffering regardless of religion or race will further enhance their commitment to work together in confronting prejudice and misunderstanding wherever it may be”.

Today, they visited a number of key historical sites in the city of Sarajevo. These included the Tunnel of Hope in Sarajevo; this tunnel was dug during the Sarajevo siege to bring food and ammunition to the besieged Muslims of the city. They also visited the Emperor’s mosque – Sarajevo’s oldest place of worship. The day ended with a visit to the ‘Srebrenica Exhibition’ which chronicles the genocide at Srebrenica.

The second day of the visit began by going to ICMP centre in Tuzla. The Centre was set up for identification of 10, 000 Muslim boys and men who were murdered in July 1995. The process of DNA identification of the remains of the victims was explained to the group and they saw the incomplete remains of the victims that were under DNA examination.

From there the group went to Srebrenica where the United Nation soldiers were based in 1995. The area is now a Museum about the genocide which took place at Srebrenica in 1995. Just under 9000 of these victims are buried in the official cemetery at Srebrenica.

At the museum, the group saw a film and the exhibition about the Srebrenica genocide and met and talked with Azir Osmanovic, a historian, who is a survivor of that genocide. From there, the group went to the cemetery where Muslim and Jewish prayers were said for the victims of Srebrenica.

The group also had a meeting with one of the mothers who witnessed the atrocities committed by the Serb military at Srebrenica, and whose young son was murdered in the genocide at Srebrenica and is buried at the cemetery.

Next the grope visited the old Jewish cemetery at Sarajevo. Sarajevo had a thriving Jewish community of 12,000 Jews of Sephardi decent. Ten thousand members of the community perished in the Holocaust. All their names are recorded in the special Book which hangs from the ceiling of the old Sephardi synagogue which is now a museum. The group visited the synagogue.

Finally the group had lunch with Julian Miller, First Secretary Political, of the British embassy and heard his analysis of the current political situation and what efforts are being made towards reconciliation.

Members of the group will be writing about their experience of the visit in our next posting.

Cooperation between the Joseph Interfaith Foundation and Remembering Srebrenica is ongoing.