Life and voices in Srebrenica - introduction
Life and voices in Srebrenica
Second International Week
August 24th – 29th, 2008
The project “Adopt Srebrenica” was initiated by the Alexander Langer Foundation from Bolzano and the association Tuzlanska Amica from Tuzla. In the meanwhile it has involved numerous people, organisations and institutions from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy and other parts of Europe with the aim of supporting those who work for a culture of peace and non-violent conflict transformation in Srebrenica. The project is also intended as a continuation of the work of Alexander Langer who has committed his life to building a peaceful coexistence and integration in South Tyrol, in the Balkans and elsewhere in the world.
The first International Week in 2007
“International Cooperation for Memory” was the title of the first International Week in Srebrenica. From the 27th of August to the 1st of September, 2007 the town was livened up by public meetings, seminars, workshops, musical, artistic and cultural events. More than 120 people came to Srebrenica, mostly from Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also from Croatia, Serbia, Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, Rwanda to contribute with their ideas and with the wish to understand and share the lives of the inhabitants of Srebrenica.
This was the first public meeting between Tuzlanska Amica, the Alexander Langer Foundation and the population of Srebrenica. At the centre was the round table with local and international experts who discussed under which conditions a collective memory of the genocide and the other crimes committed during the wars in the nineties would be possible. This memory has to be maintained and nourished for present and future generations. All victims have to be recognised by society and the institutions by prosecuting those responsible for commissioning and executing the crimes and by supporting the citizens of Srebrenica who presently still suffer the long term consequences of the war.
Thirteen Years after Dayton
From this meeting originates the idea to pursue the dialogue in another context by meeting again in South Tyrol and Trentino, two Italian provinces which have lived through periods of strong ethnic tension. In these provinces instruments for dealing with this type of conflict have been developed. Hosted by the Institute for Minority Rights of the European Academy in Bolzano, the international conference “Thirteen years after Dayton: which future for Srebrenica and Bosnia Erzegovina?” took place with discussions and cultural events from the 15th to the 18th of May, 2008. The international experts emphasized the importance and interdependence of justice, the development of a shared memory and the reform of the ethnically divided institutional model created by the Dayton Accords. The background of the discussion was provided by the integration process of the European Union, which risks to lose credibility and become a shallow slogan.
Amongst the participants were the Mayor and the President of the City Council of Srebrenica and a group of local volunteers of the project “Adopt Srebrenica” as well as delegations from other parts of the Balkans who came with the prospect of finding common intentions and overcoming the antagonisms that have divided their region.
The conference was also an integral part of the Master Course for Conflict Mediators and International Peace Workers organized by the University of Bologna and the Department for Vocational Training in Bolzano. The students will also participate in this year's international week. A substantial contribution was also made by the Italian Cooperation – Office in Sarajevo, which simultaneously convened a meeting in Bolzano of all organisations working in the area of Srebrenica. This has provided the opportunity to get acquainted and explore the possibilities for future collaborations in the field, some of which will already be put into practice during the upcoming International Week in Srebrenica.
The second International Week in 2008
This time again, many people from Bosnia Herzegovina and other countries of the area as well as from Italy and the rest of Europe will join the meeting in Srebrenica at the end of August. A lot of space will be given to dialogue with local people and organizations and to listening to the voices of those who wish to express in different ways their memories, feelings, thoughts, wishes and hopes for the future. We will visit historical and artistic sites, the natural resources like the lake Perucac or the old thermal spring. Furthermore we will meet local and international artists who have discovered the power of communication of the body, music, theatre and walks in the nature. Activities and creative workshops for youth and children in the city and in some villages are also scheduled.
The debates will focus on having a good look on other sites of multinational living together such as the borderland region between Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, where passionate people work for the safeguard of memory as a sign for the future. We will also meet the thought and the example of Alexander Langer, MEP from South Tyrol who committed the last intense years of his life to trying to interrupt the clashes in the territory of former Yugoslavia, and we will get to know the precious work of Mirsad Tokaca, head of one of the organizations that are most thoroughly searching for truth and working for honouring all the victims of war in Bosnia Herzegovina, rendering each of them a name and a face.
The International Week will end on the 29th of August with a conference called “From Srebrenica to Bruxelles: the Europe we want”, an opportunity to confirm that the path towards European integration must deal with the need for justice and shared memory in the Balkans as well as in other areas of the old continent such as the Italian-Slovenian border, with its difficult past, or South Tyrol itself. And that it must deal the memory of the European and international failure in halting he wars in the nineties, of which the genocide of Srebrenica remains the symbol. But we wish that it will give also the opportunity to talk of the present and future Europe, where victims are not being forgot, traumas are being relieved and peace built. Where fear and walls are not excluding, but where rather boundaries are left to be crossed. A Europe that is made by active citizens that participate and do not suffer passively. A Europe open to lives and voices of the others. Of everybody.