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Another Voice: Volunteer work raises awareness about Bosnian genocide

By Brad K. Mazon

The 24th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia, will take place on July 11. This is the day when 8,000 Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) men and boys began to be slaughtered by Bosnian Serbs for no reason other than being Muslim.

This occurred in the middle of Europe in the early 1990s, and between people who had been friends, teachers, fellow soccer players and neighbors. The shock of this tragedy, and so many others that occurred throughout Bosnia, reverberates today.

Serb nationalists continue to deny that these atrocities occurred, denying those who lost their family members the opportunity to properly memorialize what happened. Even now, nationalists force children to attend classes with their own ethnicity (Bosniak, Serb, Croat), even inside the same school building.

The genocide in Srebrenica, mass rape, and the indignities suffered in concentration camps throughout the country, have left a lasting scar on people who are trying to rebuild a multicultural Bosnia in the face of ethno-nationalist forces.

My connection to the genocide and to Bosnia has expanded over the past few years. As a retired fundraiser, I have turned my attention to providing pro bono fundraising services to two Bosnia-based nonprofit organizations that are working to address the challenges of peace building and memorialization.

The War Childhood Museum is based in Sarajevo, and has become a tourist destination there. Its founder, Jasminko Haliliovic, himself a child who lived through the 1,425-day siege of Sarajevo, has assembled a collection of items from individuals who experienced war during their childhood. The museum celebrates the triumph of spirit.

Being able to work with Jasminko and his team on such things as developing a culture of giving, donor stewardship, and grant writing has increased my awareness of the role that museums play as tools for memorialization and remembrance.

Kemal Pervanic founded Most Mira (Bridge of Peace), an organization based in the Prijedor region of Bosnia in the Republika Srpska, the ethnically cleansed region of the country that resulted from the Dayton Accords that ended the genocide, but which institutionalized the results of ethnic cleansing on the ground. I help Kemal with fundraising communications and donor relations.

He and his team are almost ready to put the shovel in the ground for a new peace center where youth who represent different ethnicities will come together to perform theater and music, and where visitors will come to learn more about peace building and conflict resolution. I hope that my input, supports Kemal’s vision for a peaceful and multicultural Bosnia.

Brad K. Mazon, Ph.D., strives to be a global citizen from his home in West Seneca.

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