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Bosnian War survivor shares story as pioneering peace programme wraps up in Mid and East Antrim


Elvira Mujkanovic, Jr Minister Gary Middleton and Mayor of MEA Cllr William McCaughey


A survivor of the Bosnian War has been sharing her story to inspire the next generation of leaders in Mid and East Antrim as the pioneering PEACE IV Programme comes to an end. Speaking at an event at The Braid in Ballymena and a local school, Elvira Mujkanovic encouraged young people to turn away from prejudice and embrace tolerance, inclusion and diversity.


The pioneering Conflict Transformation & Srebrenica Programme was launched in July 2019, as part of the PEACE IV Programme, funded by the Special EU Programmes Body. It has taken a group of young people from across the borough on a journey to explore past conflicts to promote a peaceful future.

The programme was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council were the first local authority to support such a project.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey said:


“I am proud that three years ago we were the first local authority in Northern Ireland to support this life changing youth programme.


“It’s important to not only reflect on the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War, but use it to inspire future generations that peace after conflict is possible.

“In Northern Ireland, we know what happens when prejudice and hatred is left unchecked. We must always be ready to challenge and confront racism and sectarianism at all times. That is why this programme is so important, encouraging new leaders to challenge old hatreds and to learn from elsewhere.

“I wish to express my thanks to Remembering Srebrenica and the teams in Northern Ireland and Birmingham for the dedication and hard work which has made the Conflict Transformation & Srebrenica Programme the success that it is. What a way to wrap up an amazing PEACE IV programme.”


Elvira Mujkanovic said:


“I feel Bosnia and Northern Ireland have so much in common. Beautiful countryside and the friendliest people, but they have also experienced tragedy driven by identity and religious hatreds. Both are still feeling their ways out of traumatic conflicts that ended in the 1990s, trying to build a sustainable peace.

“Yet, as I know too well from my own experience, peace can quickly evaporate if hatreds are left unaddressed.


“I am delighted to help close this programme, and give these young leaders a reminder that whatever happened in the past, the future – their future and ours – is in their hands to support a peace built on tolerance and respect; a peace that doesn’t just support diversity but embraces and protects diversity as a cornerstone of the future.”

Junior Minister Gary Middleton attended the event at The Braid, he said:


“The Executive Office is very proud to have supported this remarkable PEACE IV funded Conflict Transformation & Srebrenica Programme. I commend all those involved in delivering and participating in the Programme. It has broadened the horizons of our young leaders, while providing an international perspective on conflict resolution.

“It’s vitally important that the terrible events in Srebrenica, and other genocides, are remembered and never repeated. Projects such as this support our work to promote a culture based on respect and inclusion and help eradicate intolerance and prejudice.”


Junior Minister Declan Kearney said:


“The Executive Office has long supported Remembering Srebrenica, and I am delighted that through the Conflict Transformation & Srebrenica Programme they are helping to tackle intolerance and division in our society by developing a new generation of young leaders who will contribute to that vital work.

“I would like to congratulate Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Remembering Srebrenica on the successful delivery of this transformative programme. Such initiatives make an important contribution to our goal of making this a more united, inclusive and equal place for everyone.”

Peter Osborne, Chair of Remembering Srebrenica in Northern Ireland added:


“The message is clear – relationship dismantles prejudice and the Mayor’s and Elvira’s words will inspire a new generation of leaders in Mid East Antrim.

“We have a duty in our own lives, in our own way and in our own region to combat hatred and prejudice so that any violence driven by ignorance and prejudice, whether or not as significant as the Srebrenica genocide, will never happen again. We are indebted to everyone who supported and participated in this programme.”

For further information on the work of the charity please visit:


www.srebrenica.org.uk



 

On 11 July 1995, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić and his forces seized the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which had been declared a UN “safe zone” in 1993. Over the following week, 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys would be murdered simply because they were Muslim.


Mladić’s forces systematically separated men and boys (as young as 12 years old) from the women and took them away to be killed. Women and girls were subjected to inhumane treatment, and in many cases, sexual violence. Rape was used to destabilise and terrorise the local population throughout the 1992 – 1995 genocide. It is estimated that between 20,000 – 50,000 women were subjected to sexual violence in Bosnia during the genocide.


Both the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have ruled Srebrenica a genocide. In March 2016, Radovan Karadžić, former President of what is now known as the Republika Srpska, was found guilty of the genocide at Srebrenica. He is the most senior figure to be convicted of genocide since Nuremburg. Ratko Mladić was found guilty and sentenced to life for the genocide in Srebrenica and crimes against humanity across Bosnia and Herzegovina in November 2017 which was upheld in an appeal judgment that was delivered in June 2021.


The UK is the only country outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina that commemorates the genocide at a national level.


The Charity Remembering Srebrenica & Memorial Week


Remembering Srebrenica is the UK organiser of the EU-designated Srebrenica Memorial Day on 11 July. The charity is part-funded by the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, and is supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Prime Minister.


The Charity has created 1,450 Community Champions all committed to tackling hatred by organising memorial events, giving talks and educating people about genocide, as well as promoting community cohesion.


Remembering Srebrenica has educated over 130,000 young people through education packs on the lessons from the Srebrenica genocide for use in secondary schools in the UK and other educational activities.


The Charity has established three country boards for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and eight regional boards in England all working to tackle hatred and build cohesion in their communities.


The Charity holds nearly 2,000 annual memorial events and activities in schools, local authorities, and places of worship, work, community centres, prisons and police forces across the UK.