A evening of events and readings to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide have taken place in Birmingham, ahead of Srebrenica Memorial Day.

Organised by national charity Remembering Srebrenica, the gathering took place at Birmingham cathedral in Colmore Row and was attended by faith leaders, local children and members of the city’s Bosnian community.

St. Philip’s cathedral was packed to capacity with children, parents, special guests, musicians, poets, and survivors of the Srebrenica genocide as they looked forward to a peaceful and more unified society, both in Birmingham and across Europe.

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Birmingham children attended the event and pledged to build a better society

Over 350 origami flowers made by young people across Birmingham were displayed on Monday night at the church, to mark the commemoration of the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in the 1990s.

Each flower contained a pledge by a young person for a better Birmingham with the hopeful and uplifting messages being read out at the event.

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Over 350 origami flowers made by young people across Birmingham were displayed as a bridge of understanding and peace

The commemoration was an annual event organised by volunteers from Remembering Srebrenica, aimed at building a more inclusive society in the UK by learning lessons from the genocide at Srebrenica, where 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in July 1995.

The event was chaired by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, and compered by Birmingham Commonwealth Games poet Amerah Saleh.

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Birmingham Commonwealth poet Amerah Saleh compered the event and also read a poem that touched on a shared humanity

The observance featured performances from musicians from the National Theatre of Sarajevo and Celebrating Sanctuary; as well as reflections from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions.

There were several key guests in attendance including new Lord Mayor of Birmingham Cllr Muhammed Azim, his daughter Lady Mayoress of Birmingham Bushra Bi, Mayor and Mayoress of Solihull Cllr Stuart Davis and Mrs Sarah Walker, religious representatives from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, and survivors of the Srebrenica genocide.

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Sudbin Music, a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide

Sudbin Music, who survived the Bosnian concentration camps that shocked the world, shared his powerful story at the commemoration:

“If we want to bridge divides, we must first come together.

“It is important to be present, to bear witness. These simple actions connect us. It is the foundation stone for building bridges.”

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(L-R from second left): Richard Burden MP (Lab, Northfield), Lady Mayoress of Birmingham Bushra Bi, Lord Mayor of Birmingham Cllr Muhammed Azim, Cllr Stuart Davis and Mrs Sarah Walker, Mayor of Solihull 

MP Richard Burden, (Lab Northfield), delivered a speech at the event which touched on current issues:

“Public opinion in Britain is divided over Brexit and a range of other issues with sincerely held views on all sides. There are, however, those who seek to exploit those differences to create mistrust between people and ferment hatred in ways that are deeply dangerous.

“Britain in 2019 is not Bosnia in the 1990s but we should still learn the lessons of the Bosnian tragedy of where hatred can lead if left unchecked.

“The theme of this year’s Srebrenica memorial events is Bridging the Divide, Confronting Hate and it is one that is relevant to us all – in our city, our country and our world.”

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Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart hosted the event

Religious leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths also made speeches that touched upon the importance of unity and peace.

The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, stressed the importance and values of a shared humanity at a time when the country is being divided and polarized. He also praised the people of Birmingham for building a community which is inclusive.

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The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, lights a candle

At the climax of the event, as a sombre tune was played on a traditional African musical instrument, the guests in attendance lit candles to commemorate the victims of the Srebrenica genocide as well as pledging to build the bridge of coexistence.

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