Intrusive or Respectful?

This past weekend, like most weekends since I have been here, was a whirlwind of events and emotions. 

On Thursday, those of us who did not participate in the two-week university program in Srebrenica met up with the rest of the group for the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.  The day began with the program’s closing remarks in the battery factory- a building used during the war as a part of the UN Safe Zone and from which the Bosnian Serb forces separated boys and men from women and children, marking the beginning of the worst genocide Europe had seen since WWII.  Following the remarks, we watched from outside the gates as memorial services were held for the over 400 people that have been identified in the past year.  The day was a strange mix of celebration, remembrance and mourning.  I have talked about things being different from the point of view of an outsider, but that feeling has never been as strong as it was that day.  I felt out of place and in a way very disrespectful of the tragedy that these people were essentially reliving.  It was explained to me, however, that for a memorial of this magnitude and significance, the fact that people had come to Srebrenica to be a part of the day’s events was not intrusive but welcome.  It meant that people had not forgotten what had been done to the Muslims of Bosnia and that the people who had been killed would be honored. 

I’m not sure that this made me feel any more comfortable with my being at the memorial on such an important day but it did make me think: Which was a more important part of the anniversary of the genocide: the opportunity for families to finally say goodbye to those they had lost or for people to recognize and remember the tragedy that had occurred?  Is the day intended for the living or the dead? Is remembrance the best way to honor those who were killed?

I don’t know and I may never know. What I do know is I will never know how people can be capable of such hatred as to commit genocide in the first place. 

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