This article was broadcast as a Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday 27thJuly 2016 and is adapted and used with permission.
On Tuesday in Rouen in France the community gathered to remember an 84-year-old priest murdered earlier that day in an atrocious act of murder carried out it seems because he was a Christian. The Rouen community is one in a long list of communities who have gathered to remember over these last months – Nice, Munich, Orlando, Kabul to name but a few.
A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend an event remembering what happened in Srebrenica in 1995. It was a sober remembering. During the Balkans War Srebrenica was declared a United Nations Safe Area. In July 1995 General Ratko Mladic and his armed forces disregarded the declaration of safety, invaded the town and systematically killed 8000 men and boys who were then buried in mass graves. Thousands of women, young and old, were forcibly deported and many of them raped. All because they were Muslim.
It was by some collision of circumstance that I lifted a book just the night before the commemoration for Srebrenica. The book contains the record of a journalist’s observations as the war in Syria began. I did not expect the book’s introduction to focus on the Balkans war, a subject the writer describes as having become ‘a terrible fever’ for him as he worked on the seemingly intractable task of tracing war criminals like Mladic.
His anger is palpable as he writes about those who visited terror on others, going free for so long while victims drop their eyes to the ground as if they had done something to be ashamed of. One can only imagine the grief and trauma; the bodies tenderly raised from the ground with gentleness to counter the terror that had put them there – then examined, and laid properly to rest.
Rwanda, Nigeria, North America, the Shoah, the West Bank, South Sudan, Northern Ireland and on and on we continue to remember. We remember to honour the dead, as we await justice and in the hope that it will never happen again. As I remembered Srebrenica it occurred to me that we also persist in remembering because we believe we can do better than this horror. We not only can, we must. Those of us who are Christian remember a broken body, given up freely for us. It is not for us to break the bodies of others but to remember, to believe and to do better.
Rev Dr Lesley Carroll is a Presbyterian Minister. Previously she was a member of the Forum for Victims and Survivors and Consultative group on dealing with the past.