Srebrenica was the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War Two. It happened in Bosnia (part of ex-Yugoslavia) the country where I come from. More precisely 55 km away from Tuzla the city were I was born. I was lucky enough to be able to escape in the beginning of the war, but so many weren’t. The current situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo is triggering many painful memories in me and I can’t help but see similarities unfold even though lots of circumstances in Aleppo differ from those in Srebrenica. There is for example no presence of the United Nations in the besieged districts of Aleppo, but there is the same helplessness and anger at international powers that not enough is being done to protect civilians, above all children who are once again in the firing line.
I remember this feeling well as in the beginning we all thought the UN would protect us. We actually never thought the war would escalate as it did (100.000 dead, 8000 in Srebrenica alone within days) we were sure that we were safe under the UN, but we weren’t. During the war when I was already in Germany I remember watching the news on TV where a young man said: “please don’t send us spaghetti and sugar, send us military help, protect us with airplanes. We have nothing to defend ourselves with, we are completely at their mercy.”
Still it took NATO a long time to intervene, and after it did with airstrikes on Serbian points in Sarajevo the war was over very soon.
The question of why nothing was done and what peacekeepers took so long to protect those killed is still haunting the people of Bosnia, especially the families of the ones who lost their closest.
I understand that these issues are complex. I certainly may not know much about the politics and the background of the Syrian conflict or in general, but I do know that when we see suffering of these proportions, the meaningless brutality and violence of this war, we can’t just sit and watch, we must act as a human family. I also don’t know how to get NATO or UN or heads of the international governments to find a solution to this heartbreaking conflict (and needless to say, that makes me feel helpless and angry again, but at least now I know how to process those feelings). However, I do know of the power of prayer, compassion, service and kindness.
So at least let us pray for Syria, donate money to organisations that are risking their lives to help those in need, and instead of seeing potential criminals in the refugees that were created by our own countries' politics for hundreds of years, let's try to keep our hearts and minds strong and open finding constructive ideas for coexistence in future.
Most importantly, whether or not we are able to help Aleppo at all, may these images we see be a wake up call to all of us to immediately begin creating a different kind of world where such suffering will not be possible ever again. May our thoughts, words and actions go beyond complacency, self-obsession and arrogance towards respect, equality, peace & prosperity for all beings.