As published in the Church Times – July 2015
I am grateful for the generous coverage of the service at Westminster Abbey, recalling the events at Srebrenica twenty years ago (Srebrenica mother makes plea – 10th July). It is probably too much to hope that the considerable interest in Bosnia which Srebrenica evokes could continue, because Bosnia is broken, politically, chaotic and in danger of disintegrating, with the Serbian entity, the Republika Srpska, declaring independence.
Every top-down initiative from the international community has failed in Bosnia. The latest was announced last autumn, when a reform plan was presented by the UK and German governments for removing some of the obstacles for integrating with Europe with promise of considerable funding. At the last moment this was rejected by the Bosnian Serbs.
Therefore a consortium of local NGOs is being set up to hold a National Conference on the future of Bosnia Herzegovina. Politicians will be invited initially as observers. The purpose of the conference is to draw attention to the demands and needs of Bosnian citizens. Groups will be set up to look at proposals in detail. Six months later the conference will reconvene. This initiative will be led by local NGOs with the encouragement and support of the Soul of Europe, drawing on our experience of fifteen years in the Balkans.
In his bidding prayer at the Westminster Abbey service the Dean spoke of looking for ‘signs of hope, forgiveness and reconciliation’. This National Conference initiative represents such a sign of hope. We shall invite the Bosnian religious leaders to take part. Experience has shown that beyond fine words they are unwilling to be involved, but the Soul of Europe has learnt to persist.
The Revd Donald Reeves MBE