Remembering Srebrenica: Shropshire children dress memorial cherry tree in ceremony
Local children have helped to dress a very special memorial cherry tree with flower and leaf promises, in a ceremony outside Shirehall in Shrewsbury on Tuesday 6 July 2021. This links in with Remembering Srebrenica Day, which fell on Sunday 11 July, and for which the 2021 theme was “rebuilding lives”, as well as with ongoing local efforts to mark the Holocaust and other genocides.
The children were representing Mereside CofE Primary Academy, where a first memorial cherry tree was planted in 2015. They read the Srebrenica Prayer to Councillor Kirstie Hurst-Knight, representing Shropshire Council; Wing Commander Lee Turner from RAF Shawbury, representing the Armed Forces; members of the interfaith forums; and the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner.
The ceremony focused upon prayers and memories, with Wing Commander Turner reading a Christian prayer, and Mr Michaels and Imam Sohayb Peerbhai from the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum reading a Jewish prayer together. These were both written for Srebrenica.
Everyone then came together to dress the cherry tree, before Reverend Ken Chippindale, from Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum, closed the ceremony with the reading of the Muslim prayer for Srebrenica.
Kirstie Hurst-Knight said:-
“It was a very moving occasion for me. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to share that my own grandfather, William Grant, who was from Scotland, was picked to be part of a recce troop to go to Belgium ahead of other British troops. He then helped to liberate Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945, along with people who served in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He stayed in touch with a family after the war, and he said he remembers the smiles on their faces, but also the sadness in their eyes.
“We must never forget the humanitarian roles played by the Armed Forces, and we must never forget those who died and those who carry on without them. The children have reminded us of this, with their words and their actions today, where they have dressed the tree with their promises. I promise on behalf of Shropshire Council to help to look after our Remembering Srebrenica tree, and I know that Wing Commander Turner, on behalf of the Armed Forces, will help to do the same.”
Mr Michaels from the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum said:-
”I recognise what Councillor Hurst-Knight says about the sadness in people’s eyes, and I share with you the names of the husband and sons that a woman called Hatidza lost at Srebrenica. Her husband was called Abdulah, known as Salko, aged 44, and her sons were Azmir, who was 21, and Almir, who was just 18. I will never forget her dignity, poise, and infinite sadness; and I share these names so that they are not forgotten either, and so that we can extend their memories together.”
Anna Turner, Lord Lieutenant for Shropshire, said:-
“It is really important to remember the lives that have been lost, and occasions like this help us to make sure that these losses are never forgotten.”
Shropshire Council joins with other organisations to remember the events of twenty-six years ago in Bosnia, where over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered because of their faith. Remembering Srebrenica Day is on Sunday 11 July 2021.
Mark Michaels, for the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum, said:-
“I have been to Bosnia myself as a member of one of the UK delegations organised by Remembering Srebrenica. I share what I have learned from this experience, in our ceremonies with local children, so that the focus is upon remembering not only those who died during the Holocaust, but also those who died in subsequent genocides, and how people of different faiths worked together then and work together now.”
Ian Nellins, Armed Forces Covenant Shropshire Councillor lead, said prior to the event:-
“This tree has been planted as a memorial to mark the humanitarian efforts of our Armed Forces in Bosnia, as part of the Remembering Srebrenica activities in which we reflect upon this genocide. It will grow as part of our cherry tree orchard of remembrance for the Holocaust and other genocides.”
Remembering Srebrenica is a charitable organisation funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and supported by the Foreign Office. Its aim is to raise awareness of the genocide in Bosnia and bring people together to tackle hatred and help build safer, stronger communities in the UK.
The symbol of the organisation is the Srebrenica Flower: this is a symbol of remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide. Its eleven petals represent the day the genocide began, while their white colour represents the innocence of its victims. The flower’s green centre represents hope for justice and recognition of the genocide.
For more information, please see resources on the following websites
Remembering Srebrenica website: www.srebrenica.org.uk
HMD Trust website: www.hmd.org.uk