This week, millions are commemorating the nightmares of July 1995, when ultranationalist Bosnian Serb forces overtook the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica and slaughtered more than eight thousand men and boys.
This is one time of year that Bosnia and Herzegovina is sure to get some of the global media attention it deserves. That’s good, because the world must never forget or deny what happened at Srebrenica, and the victims and their loved ones deserve a dignified, sacred remembrance.
I worry, though, that the media coverage will perpetuate an old distortion: Bosnia and Herzegovina as a land of ghosts. The world will not fully understand the tragedy of Srebrenica unless it appreciates how much life there was in BiH, and how much still remains. This is the gift and promise of the fledgling bebolucija (“baby revolution”) there. It honors the dead by standing up for the children of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
These are the politics of life, pitted against the politics of death: the zombie politics of nationalists, who haunt the living by resurrecting the worst of the past.
Last summer, I made sure that my journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina included Srebrenica. But I also made sure that it did not end there. All over BiH, in cities like Tuzla, Sarajevo, Mostar, and Bihać, I met warm, beautiful, vibrant people with a deep understanding of their country’s past, its problems, and its potential. They are the future of BiH and the soul of the “baby revolution.”
Nothing will ever fully atone for the crimes, or heal the wounds, of Srebrenica. But there is still a chance for Bosnia and Herzegovina to take its rightful place on the European and global stage, as a thriving civilization that stands for democracy, tolerance, and human rights. The citizens of BiH have all the determination and wisdom they need to realize this dream. As they imagine and create a new life together, however, they need—and deserve—strong international support, both political and economic. Such assistance, offered with a spirit of genuine contrition and long-term commitment, would be the most appropriate and meaningful tribute that the international community could offer to the victims, and the survivors, of the Bosnian genocide.