Yesterday was a day of remembrances, and remembrances are queer things indeed. At the beginning of the day a friend asked if there would be any official events to mark the twentieth anniversary of the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica, and my reply was something between a snort and a laugh. Of course there would be no official events marking the darkest events of rape and murder in the Balkans that no European state cared about at the time. There was an event, but it was attended by no more than thirty people huddled together on the street in the rain close to the Dáil. Admittedly the gathering did include Senator Ivana Bačik and Fianna Fáil chief Micheál Martin. Giving them the benefit of the doubt I won’t suggest that they attended for the sake of the photographs or that it just happened to be on during their lunch break, but there certainly wasn’t an official government acknowledgement of the occasion. If we were to be perfectly honest about Srebrenica we would have to admit that we, as a society, are deeply ashamed. No one intervened – not the United Nations, the European Community, NATO, nor the United States – when we knew fine well what the Serbian Republican Army was doing to defenceless civilians in Bosnia.

The main event, if that is what you can call it, was the remembrance of the 2005 terrorist attack on London. Fifty-two victims in London are somehow more important than the eight and a half thousand butchered at Srebrenica. It would seem odd, certainly if we are to accept that all human beings have equal dignity and rights, that this should be the case. We don’t remember the genocide in the Balkans for the same reasons that no one intervened. There is quite simply nothing to be gained by European states in remembering such victims, but there is a great deal to be gained from reminding people of the London attacks. It was a post on social media by an acquaintance in the north of Ireland – a Church of Ireland minister no less – that brought this home to me. The Reverend Stanley Gamble, a chaplain to the sectarian Orange Order, was so confident in his sentiments that he posted publically of how his experience of seeing a Gaelic Football holdall on a bus in London on the day of the attack convinced him that the threat was from Irish Republican terrorists – seven whole years after the Good Friday Agreement. How those of little faith, in their blind panic, are so willing to restore their default settings of prejudice and intolerance never ceases to amaze me. Sadly, and all too often, remembrance is used as a tool to perpetuate hatred and violence rather than to end them.

Jason Michael
Blog Author


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