13/07/2022 - Permalink

Shropshire Council commemorates Srebrenica Memorial Day 2022

Related topics: Children's services / Community / Partner organisations

Shropshire Council has joined with children from Mereside CE Primary School in Shrewsbury and with faith community representatives to remember the events of 27 years ago in Bosnia, where over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered because of their faith.

Officers arranged a commemoration of Srebrenica Memorial Day, Monday 11 July 2022, with a short ceremony at the memorial cherry tree planted outside Shirehall in Shrewsbury in 2021.

People at the Remembering Srebrenica ceremony

Peter Vousden, Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum
Rosemary Dartnall, local Shropshire Councillor
Mark Michaels, South Shropshire Interfaith Forum
Lois Dale, Shropshire Council’s rural equalities specialist
Ethan Morgan, Mereside Primary School

The children shared their thoughts and reflections, as did Mark Michaels, for the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum.

Srebrenica Flower messages were placed upon the tree by the children. Representatives of the two inter faith forums in Shropshire, and our local Shropshire Councillors for the area, added leaf shapes, on one side of which was written “Combatting Denial” and on the other side of which was written “Confronting Hatred”, very much making the 2022 theme central to the ceremony.

Pupils dressing the memorial tree with messages of remembrance and hope

Dressing the memorial tree with messages of remembrance and hope

A message on a tree

A message reflecting the 2022 theme of “Combatting Denial, Confronting Hatred”

The children said:-

“When we planted our cherry tree, we planted it with the hope that future generations at Mereside would continue to look after it and watch it grow. Over the last 6 years, we have watched it grow from just a tiny sapling to a beautiful tree that is taller than us now. Each year we see more tiny buds appear and more leaves grow.

“We have thought about the leaves being like us. The more of us that hope and pray for a better future, the more of us that accept everyone for who they are, the more peace there will be in the world. Just like all the leaves, each year pupils at Mereside go out into the world with a message of equality, acceptance and hope.

“For us being a part of this ceremony gives us the opportunity to share our message of love with more people. We hope that this tree will be the same representation of love, peace and acceptance to the passing public, as it is to our school. “

Mark Michaels, for the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum, has been to Bosnia himself as a member of one of the UK delegations organised by Remembering Srebrenica, and told the children about a woman he had met called Hatidza, who had lost her husband Abdulah and sons Azmir and Almir at Srebrenica, and about the memory card he carried of a young man called Benjamin who had also died. He asked the children, councillors and council staff to help remember them by saying their names together.

Lezley Picton, Leader of the Council, said:-

“The 2022 Remembering Srebrenica theme of ‘Combatting Denial, Confronting Hatred’ very much resonates for us as a council, through our ongoing efforts to support Syrian refugee families and Ukrainian families, and through our efforts to combat denial and confront hatred wherever it is encountered. I join with the children of Mereside Primary School and the inter faith forums in commemorating the Muslim boys and men who died in Srebrenica, and remembering the women and girls and children that were left behind, so that we keep the memories alive.”

During the ceremony the council used three Srebrenica prayers: a Christian one, read by local Shropshire Councillors Rosemary Dartnall and Tony Parsons; a Jewish one, read by Mark Michaels, representing the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum; and a Muslim one, read by Peter Vousden, representing the Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum. A three-wick candle was lit to represent the three world faiths, in remembrance.

Ceremony guests and Mereside Primary School pupils gather at the memorial tree on Srebrenica Memorial Day

Local Shropshire Councillors Rosemary Dartnall and Tony Parsons, interfaith forum representatives Peter Vousden and Mark Michaels, and Mereside Primary School pupils, gather at the memorial tree on Srebrenica Memorial Day. The pupils were supported by class teacher Claire Hamer.

Dr Waqar Azmi OBE, Chair of Remembering Srebrenica, said:-

“We are proud that our country is the largest commemorator of Srebrenica memorial activities in the world, and that over a thousand activities have taken place right across the country in town halls, churches, mosques, synagogues, community centres and places of work. We hope that Remembering Srebrenica’s theme for 2022 ‘Combatting Denial: Challenging Hatred’ will not only bring people together to learn the lessons of the past to create stronger, more inclusive communities, but also inspire future generations to take action to combat denial and challenge hatred and intolerance.”

In support of Srebrenica Memorial Day, Shropshire Council joined many UK organisations in paying tribute to the victims of genocide and in sending a clear message to future generations to say ‘never again’.

Further information

The tree formally commemorates the role of the Armed Forces in humanitarian efforts around genocides, such as befell the Muslim community in Srebrenica.

Mereside was the first school to plant a tree with the council and the interfaith forums for Holocaust Memorial Day, and the council returns to the school every year to see how their own tree is growing in their care. A different primary school is chosen each year with which to plant a further cherry tree: in so doing, the council and interfaith forums are gradually growing a cherry tree orchard of remembrance with children across the county.

The Srebrenica tree is therefore a very special tree within the orchard.

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 Srebrenica Flower is used as a symbol of remembrance of the Srebrenica genocide. Its 11 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

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website: www.hmd.org.uk