Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gordon Lyons took part in a tree planting ceremony to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica in Bosnia.
They were joined at the event in the Stormont Estate by Finance Minister Conor Murphy and representatives of Remembering Srebrenica – a charitable organisation which raises awareness about the genocide and works to create a society free from hatred and intolerance.
The tree planting ceremony was held ahead of Srebrenica Memorial Day (July 11), which remembers the victims of the genocide when more than 8,000 Bosnians, mostly Muslim men and boys, were massacred in and around the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian War.
Mevlida Lazibi, who lost 36 family members in the genocide, including her father, grandfather and brothers, travelled from London to take part in the memorial event.
Speaking at the ceremony, Junior Minister Kearney said: “Today, we honour the resilience of Mevlida and all the people of Bosnia. Their work in contributing to rebuilding a country still living with the consequences of hatred is an example to us all.
“From our own experience, we know peacebuilding is not easy. Embedding sustainable and strong peace is long and often complex work, but we are up for the challenge.
“The Executive’s Good Relations Strategy sets out our vision for a united community, where everyone can live, learn and socialise together, free from prejudice, hate and intolerance.
“We are determined to build on the opportunity offered to us by the New Decade, New Approach deal in order to tackle endemic problems in our society such as sectarianism, prejudice and inequality, and to build a united community.”
Junior Minister Lyons added: “Today gives us all an opportunity to reflect upon the genocide that took place in 1995 and remember all the victims and those who were left behind.
“It is important that we acknowledge their courage in the face of unspeakable suffering and their determination that this must never be repeated.
“In the Executive Office, we have responsibility for implementing Together: Building a United Community - the Executive’s Good Relations Strategy.
“In keeping with our vision for a united community, we can all learn from what happened in Srebrenica; we can see how prejudice can lead to terrible consequences and we can learn what action we can all take to prevent it.”
Both Junior Ministers wished Mevlida well on her continuing journey to ensure the Srebrenica massacre is not forgotten and towards helping create a more peaceful and reconciled society.
Minister Murphy commented: “This memorial within the grounds of Stormont Estate is a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives in the Srebrenica genocide and to the Mothers of Srebrenica who have tirelessly campaigned for justice and reconciliation.”
Mevlida Lazibi, who presented Ministers with a Flower of Srebrenica to thank them for hosting the event, said: “I hope that the tree serves as a living reminder that genocide like Srebrenica can still happen in Europe. I hope also that as a living memorial to the thousands of innocent victims who lost their lives in Srebrenica, it grows a bond between Northern Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina as two regions coming out of conflict supporting each other in their pursuit of peace and reconciliation.”
Notes to editors:
- Photo caption: Junior Minister Declan Kearney, genocide survivor Mevlida Lazibi, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Junior Minister Gordon Lyons at the tree planting event in the Stormont Estate to mark the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.
- In 2019/20, Belfast City Council received approximately £507,000 of funding from The Executive Office for the District Council Good Relations Programme. As part of the programme it delivered a Shared Spaces Programme with the Mothers of Srebrenica. As part of the programme TEO organised an Insight Session involving the President of the Mothers of Srebrenica and this was delivered on 5 March 2020 in Castle Buildings.
- After fleeing Srebrenica, Mevlida Lazibi eventually settled in London where she now works for international charity Human Relief Foundation.
- The theme for Remembering Srebrenica in 2020 is ‘Every Action Matters’.
- For information about the work of Remembering Srebrenica NI follow @RemSrebNI on Twitter, log on to https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/tag/northern-ireland/ or call Peter Osborne on 07803 717 930.
- For media queries contact the TEO press office via firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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