As the news of the Srebrenica massacres emerged and the mass graves were uncovered, I remember thinking: That was all happening just couple of hundred kilometers from where I was enjoying my careless university days. How could this happen in Europe in the 20th century? Why did Europe do nothing?
Hindsight is 20:20 vision, they say. Analysis of the situation now highlights why, yet it is still difficult to comprehend.
Just 20 years later, we are watching mass destruction again.
There’s a grave conflict in Syria, with thousands of lives lost or made unbearable. It’s not on our doorstep, but it’s not on the other side of the world either. It’s difficult to understand the ins and outs of the conflict, who’s fighting who and why. The main burden so far has been taken by countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
In Europe, we’ve stayed out of it till children dying on our shores were paraded in the media. Then an emotional cord finally struck and we could no longer ignore the mass exodus from the region and influx into Europe. Something the countries on the Southern borders of Europe have been shouting about for long-long months.
Then, in Paris, the conflict was brought directly to our doorstep. The world sat up and suddenly felt the need to act.
What do we do? How do we respond?
Do we choose to ignore, tighten out borders, our controls, let the massacres continue, let people suffer?…because it’s not our war.
Or do we try strategic maneuvers, in the hope of injuring as few innocents as possible, but cutting off supplies to finance the war further?
I don’t know, for any innocent life lost is a life too many. It is easy to say, to a faceless life lost “but we have saved 10s if not 100s of lives and sacrificed a few”. That was someone’s daughter, son, mother or father! Someone loved.
Yet, I know we cannot sit back inactive either. Kofi Annan, said on the 10th anniversary of Srebrenica ” [the UN] made serious errors of judgement, rooted in a philosophy of impartiality”.
We cannot repeat the same mistakes.
When I reflect on my travels to the region 9 years ago, my heart is filled with pain and dread. There was so much beauty there, so many happy people we met. It makes me sad.
The ancient souk in Aleppo in 2006.
In 2012 raveged by war. (Photo: Will Wintercross for the Telegraph)
Inaction is inexcusable. However, the only thing I’m certain of is that we cannot afford to fight this war as a religious war – for there will be no winners! We cannot afford for propaganda to twist people’s beliefs that this is an attack against people for their faith. No!
We are all humans beings, religion has divided us through the ages, in it’s name atrocities have been committed. Surely, it’s time to stop acting as primitive animals and start acting as people: with compassion, understanding and tolerance towards other human beings, whatever God we believe in! Isn’t that what all religious scriptures teach?
I have no answers, I am confused and I fear for the world my children will grow up in if we accept people to kill people in the name of ANY God.
We need to stand united Muslims, Christians, Jews and all other faiths, learn and adapt to this modern world, letting go of the past. I hope we can see the light and come to our senses.
Do you think we, as a race of thinking beings, have the capacity to let go of the past and choose the future?