July 13, 2005

Remembering Srebrenica

Thousands gathered in Srebrenica on Monday to remember the massacre that took place in this Bosnian town 10 years ago while the world looked on and did nothing. An estimated 8,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in Srebenica in July 1995 … in a "UN Safe Zone" no less.

The bodies of some of those killed in Srebenica have now been properly laid to rest. World leaders who did nothing at the time have admitted their failure and made their apologies, presumably trying to lay to rest their own guilt and shame as well. "Srebrenica was the failure of NATO, of the West, of peacekeeping and of the United Nations," said the former U.S. envoy to the Balkans, Richard Holbrooke. "It was the tragedy that should never be allowed to happen again."

Where have we heard that before? After World War II, the world said "Never Again." But then there was Rwanda. And Bosnia. And now the Darfur region of Sudan. And … what’s next on the list? It can feel overwhelming, reading about these atrocities in the daily paper as we drink our lattes and go about with our daily lives. What can we do about it?

As Catholics, we are called to do something very real and very difficult. We are called into solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the globe. Our tradition of Catholic Social Teaching tells us that we are, all of us, brothers and sisters. Nazi concentration camp survivor, Bosnian villager, Hutu and Tutsi, Sudanese Refugee, and coffee-sipping newspaper reading American alike. We are all God’s children. Pope John Paul II summed up the challenge in Ecclesia in Europa. "A ‘universal’ vision of the common good demands this: we need to broaden our gaze to embrace the needs of the entire human family. The phenomenon of globalization itself calls for openness and sharing, if it is not to be a source of exclusion and marginalization, but rather a basis for solidarity and the sharing of all in the production and exchange of goods."

Perhaps globalization is not a bad thing. In the past the world has said, "Never Again" and moved on with their lives, only to ignore the atrocities happening again in a new part of the globe. But with the effects of globalization, it is becoming harder and harder to turn a blind eye.

We need to broaden our horizons. When we remember Srebrenica, it needs to feel as if it is our own brother who is buried in an unmarked grave. Because in the grand scheme of things, he is our brother. In Christ.