Articles

Mindfulness is God’s Gift

As a species, we often have a tendency to ruminate on the past or be fearful of the future. So when an opportunity presents itself for us to be self-aware – i.e. to focus on the present –  suddenly we see the world with a very different set of eyes. 

This is where mindfulness comes into the fray.

When we decide to be mindful, suddenly the dark hues of our lives are illuminated.  

Suddenly the world starts to spin on a slightly different axis.

And suddenly our lives start to seem that much better.

So instead of worrying about what was or what will soon come to pass, why not instead be nostalgic of everything that was and hopeful about all the things that could be.

If you decide to be mindful, this way of experiencing life can suddenly become a reality.

Deriving from the ancient Buddhist philosophy on the benefits of meditation, Mindfulness has been similarly proven to be as effective within modern psychotherapy as a form of mental cleansing.    

Being mindful is a way for us to be honest, open, happy, patient and self-aware.

It’s a necessary state of mind that truly is God’s gift.

So, how can you be mindful?

  1. Watch your thoughts

There’s a quote from Professor Mark Williams – of the Oxford Mindfulness centre – in which he states:

“Some people find it very difficult to practice mindfulness. As soon as they stop what they’re doing, lots of thoughts and worries crowd in. It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events.

Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing ‘thought buses’ coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away. This can be very hard at first, but with gentle persistence it is possible.”

In circumstances such as these, the good doctor also recommends, for instance, an exercise in yoga or some other physical activity.

  • Free yourself from the past and future

This goes without saying, but having a consistent focus on the present is the only way to achieve a ‘focused’ state of mindfulness.

  • Notice the everyday

As a follow-up, this next point is where the focus of this article really lies.

To quote the good doctor:

“Even as we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk. All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the ‘autopilot’ mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life.”

It’s entirely up to you whether or not you decide to apply any of this in practice, but as a lesson on the topic of mindfulness, I hope what’s been written here will be of some use to you in the future…

Or should I say, the here and now.

By Lee Thorneycroft.

Embracing Change

Finding happiness in the strangest places has been a thing that is relatively new to me. Is it strange or is it just different, out of the norm?

Doing things outside of my comfort zone has been the theme for me lately. I was never the type to go out of my way to feel uncomfortable or different, I liked sticking to what I know.

Although that doesn’t include food, oddly enough I don’t mind trying different types of food. In life, change sometimes scares me.

Imagine being one way for so long and out of nowhere, like a spontaneous gust of wind, everything changes. They say sometimes change can be good and I agree but what if that change overwhelms you?

Being overwhelmed can be good but it can also terrify you if the situation isn’t embraced. I suppose that’s what I’ve been trying to do for a while now.

Here’s an example, graduating. Call it morbid or insecurities, but I thought the day of my graduation would never come. Now that is not saying that I wasn’t working hard, because I was, I just never thought it would happen.

That might be an unusual thing to say but it’s the truth. Graduating and becoming an adult, doing adult things was overwhelming but gradually I’ve been embracing the change.

In a sense, I’ve been taking charge of it all. The fear is still there but it’s not all-consuming.

Getting my first job was new for me. It’s an internship but being able to work and say ‘I have work in the morning’ was pretty exciting and in that respect I was doing what I love.

All these changes I guess you could say is all part of being an adult. Change in life is always hard. Sometimes you look at life and wonder why does change need to happen? But if you think of the evolution of life, it’s all because of change.

I wanted to run away from the constant changes in my life, but I didn’t because it wasn’t fair. You could run as far as you can but that would never stop the change from happening.

It would be like you standing as the parade is going by watching everyone else have fun and creating a story for themselves whilst you do nothing.

The meaning of the word ‘Change’ is pretty simple: to make or become different. So, it’s better not to be basic and simple but be different, evolve with the world and yourself.

That’s one of the things I am taking with me but holding that overwhelming feeling tight and let the change happen. Embrace the change, don’t run, nothing good comes from running even though it can be hard not to run.

Embrace it!

By Deanna Tuitt

Life Starts When You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

A comfort zone can be defined as a space where “activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk,” and that’s why you need to leave it.

Your comfort zone is safe, risk-free, and familiar, but life starts when you leave your psychological bubble for more stressful and scarier alternative.

It’s not a bad stress though. It’s a motivator, a positive source of fear that causes you to grow, feel, and experience new things.

As humans, we’re wired to seek comfort, which is why it’s hard to let it go. We know what’s coming and how to handle it, which helps us to stay safe from uncertainty. But outside of our comfort zone is something new, unpredictable, and nerve-inducing, as well as an opportunity to reach new heights.

Yes, it sounds cliché, and the very proposition of stepping outside what is safe to try something new might literally be a step outside your comfort zone but let me assure you that you will not regret it.

Whether it be related to a career, relationship, travel, identity, passion, or project, here is how to take the first step from safety into opportunity:

Accept and Analyze Your Feelings

It’s ok to be nervous and unsure of a situation. Exploring your anxieties can help you to better understand and cope with them. Examine why it makes you uncomfortable and work through the possibilities, both positive and negative. Become familiar with your discomfort and find solutions to tackling the issue, while easing your anxieties.

Start Small

There’s no need to immediately jump into the deep end if you don’t want to. But a good way to start is by challenging yourself to do one thing that scares you a day. It doesn’t have to be anything too large, it could be a new type of music to listen to on your commute, trying a new food, or talking to someone new. Pushing yourself makes challenge a commonplace as you begin to accept, and even enjoy, trying new things.

Say “Yes”

From accepting a new project at work to meeting new people, saying “yes” will open up many doors for you leading to new opportunities and a better realization of what can make you happy. By opening yourself up to new experiences, you can better understand yourself and possibly discover something new.

Make a List of Goals and Accomplishments

By writing down what you want to accomplish, and what you have already achieved, you can better measure your progress. Self-awareness is a step in the right direction on the journey outside your comfort zone and being able to track your progress is an essential confidence booster and motivator toward future goals.

As a source of encouragement, continue to ask yourself “what is the worst thing that can happen?” Then focus on achieving the opposite.

By: Alex Roat

Death and Life Left Behind

I am a person that has experienced death way too many times for my twenty-
five years on this earth. It is safe to say funerals are not for me neither is crying
or feeling helpless.


Those were the feelings I’ve felt through the years; I’ve always been a person
that questions everything and hoping to see the positive side of a situation.


Having to have that core factor of yourself stripped and ripped apart by the loss
of someone felt like an out-of-body experience, not the kind where you get to
see your future or anything like that.


The feeling of looking at yourself from the outside and all you see are the
fragments of your being slowly breaking with no way of repairing it. The loss of
someone that was literally the one that holds you up is the absolute worst.


A parent. The definition of a parent is a guardian; someone that takes care of
you, guides you through life but in that definition, it never states how you are
meant to deal with that parent not being able to do those things anymore.


Throughout my life I have always known one common fact, everything happens
for a reason. Would I really be human if I disagree with that notion at times?


There’s a reason for everything, yes, but that reason sometimes hinders a
person’s ability to breathe or wanting to at times. It’s a hard truth but it is a
feeling I often felt when the loss happened and honestly, still feel.


Nothing, although I often think it does, nothing fills the emptiness you feel
knowing that all the things you achieve in life, that person is never going to be
able to see it but there’s a higher being that I believe in that somewhat reassures
me.


God.


Yes, I won’t lie I got angry at him and I sometimes still do but I know that he is
with those that I’ve lost, and they are looking down at me. My religion… my
faith, has been one of the things that have helped me deal but it could only go so
far.


Depression and anxiety have been things that I have to deal with. Life after
death is not fair, having to deal with the death of someone or more than one
person is not fair.

Sometimes I wish there was a time machine that I could use but I also know if
that were real it wouldn’t change anything really. Life is about growth and
shaping yourself within the circumstances given.


Have I grown over the years of losing multiple people who have impacted my
life? I believe I have. Am I more determined to make something of myself to
make them proud? That’s not even a question, that will definitely happen.


So, here’s the thing I’ve learned: death and the life that is left behind is exactly
that. Death is an experience no one likes but you lived, I lived, and I know it is
in my best interest and there’s that I live it to the fullest until we meet again.


By Deanna Tuitt

Learn To Love Yourself

There’s a hard truth in life that everyone needs to know: not everyone is going to be there for you for the right reasons. It is a tough truth to hear but it’s what we all have to come to terms with. This truth took a while for me to personally understand and there are still days when I tend to forget, but I know it’s there. 

You can be the nicest person, doing everything for everyone, and leaving yourself in the dark just so the people around you can get their chance to be in the light. Is it right? Should you allow yourself that misfortune of paving a way for everyone but leaving yourself stranded on the side lines watching their success? The answer to both those questions is,

NO!

No one should be made to feel as if the only thing that they are able to do is to help others and not take advantage of the fact that it before the others it was only you by yourself. Here’s a rule that might be worth taking, be selfish, be unforgiving of putting you above others. In the end, it will feel great. It is natural to have that unnerving sense of guilt trust me I’ve been there sort of still there, but the best feeling is you get to jump into that space of where you’re like,

I DID IT!

No longer feeling like it won’t ever happen but feeling like it did, and you made that happen. It’s funny there would be people around you who would applaud you for accomplishing something even if it’s a small accomplishment, but they will still be there and there are people that will see that accomplishment and tear you down – they were meant to your friends. 

The feeling of betrayal from people you trusted is an unfortunate part of life. Like I said in the beginning not everyone is going to be there for you for the right reasons. It only takes one moment in one day at any time for a person to say or do something against you which then leaves the trust broken. 

You are going to have to trust your instincts that the people around you want what’s best for you. Try and cut away the negative vibes you might feel, live your life with the unforgiven feeling that you are worth more than what one person can do to you.

DON’T FORGET!

The feeling of loving the people around you but not being too afraid to sometimes be hurt at times when you least expect it. Love yourself more than you love others, that’s not a bad feeling to have. As humans, we are stronger than we tend to give ourselves credit for. 

By Deanna Tuitt

Planning + Life = Changes we don’t Always Expect

Have you ever wondered why life isn’t going the way you planned? I could say from experience that the way I planned my life isn’t how it turned out to be. 

Were there any regrets for that outcome? Maybe; but there was one thing I learned about planning your life, don’t plan the big things so quickly because something just might come in the way of that and ruin whatever you had in mind.

I could give you a prime example of that. I’ve always dreamed of owning a clothing store showcasing my designs and the clothes I’ve made but that didn’t happen. 

Now it wasn’t for the lack of hard work because hard work was there. The simple answer is that life happened, situations happened and for a lack of a better phrase, but my world was rocked… tested even. 

I could tell you what life and planning have in common – they both test your abilities and your strength. There’s this saying that I’ve grown up with, “the lord doesn’t give you too much that you won’t be able to handle”.

That simply means at times when the there’s a roadblock in the way of your plans there’s always a way you could overcome it and succeed. 

What you may have initially dreamed your life to be, there’s always that one other layer or window to lead you through another, even better dream. 

Now I am not saying you should abandon your first dream, I didn’t entirely, but the other dream that you may have might just put you onto a different path completely with fewer roadblocks. 

It might sound like I’m saying: 

“STOP, DON’T EVER PLAN!”

Wrong, it’s good to plan but it is always good to leave room for disappointment. 

What I mean by that is, make your plan, do the hard work that’s needed but be cautious as well, open to any possibilities.

It’s like crossing the street –  you look both ways, left and right just to see if it’s safe to get the other side but what if you suspected that the road was clear and as you are about to take a step a car speeds up almost taking you with it. 

Don’t assume everything would go the way you intend it to because something might just come in the way of that. 

Now I’m going to say this, and I absolutely believe in this. If we don’t take charge of own life everything we envisioned for ourselves will be invalid. 

Yes, as human beings we are bound to make mistakes and things are inevitable to happen that we can’t control. But whether we plan or not just know if it doesn’t go as you’d want it to, doesn’t mean that it won’t happen somewhere down the road.

Planning and life is just another way of saying “take the road trip that is your life, try new things who knows… another dream might help expand the first”. 

By Deanna Tuitt

Get Inspired & Live Your Life

Whether you are struggling to find a job, dissatisfied with your financial situation, irritated by a relationship, or feeling unmotivated and critical of yourself, you are bound to encounter difficult obstacles.

But what distinguishes those who are optimistic and driven is how they react to such situations. It is up to you to change your attitude, take action and tackle your life with fervor and ambition, rather than pity yourself and aimlessly trudge through a stagnant life.

Below are three inspirational quotes that motivate me to refine my habits when I am feeling frustrated and pessimistic about a daunting situation.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” –Buddha

It is often true that you are your own worst critic. Rather than constantly condemning every move you make, try complimenting your achievements and speaking to yourself in an encouraging tone. When the little voice in your head emits positivity, it affects your emotions and actions favorably.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” –John Lennon

Staying in the present allows you to appreciate those around you and experience the “now” to the fullest. If you are continuously planning ahead and worrying about the future, you risk missing the opportunities right in front you. Sometimes, you must simply accept the life path you are on and trust that where you are at the moment is where you are meant to be.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.” –Mark Twain

An effective tactic to overcome discouragement or dissatisfaction is to push yourself beyond the boundaries of discomfort and endeavor to accomplish a new task or explore a realm about which you have always been curious. Instead of fearing failure, let your guard down and tackle the unknown because you never know the benefits that may come out of it or the lessons you may learn.

By Melissa Simon

Life Through A Lens

Have you ever gazed through a telescope or marvelled at something from the lens of a camera? Chances are the answer is yes.

At that point of contact, the lens of your camera becomes what your eyes are to your brain: an observant tool, curious to discover new and yet unknown territory.

Cameras, like telescopes, like mobile phones, and like everything in between, all come equipped with that curious, all-seeing eye.

But of course, the curiosity they bring can’t exist without one very specific thing: your mind.

And as we have invented technology to enhance our ways of life, we have also crafted the means to document our lives and minds in a way that means they can be preserved for all time.

This so called invention is what we call film – A medium inspired entirely by our primal curiosity.

Films, unlike our lives, are eternal. And thanks to the aid of our unique invention, films also have the ability to alter our understanding of how we perceive time both in our real lives and in the land of fiction.

Effectively, you could say that time in movies is relative.

When you look back at the classics of today, like 1941’s ‘Citizen Kane’ or 1960’s ‘Breathless’, you see that the visions of the day, as they existed back then, carry forward into the present day.

The world as it was seen in 1941 and 1960 can now be witnessed as they were intended, now in the year 2019.

Essentially, you could claim that two different time lines have intersected; you’re now living in those moments.

And further to the point, the fictional worlds that these movies have created exist within their own time, with sequences taking place in a non-linear fashion.

Story lines and character arcs can present themselves without being restricted to time as it exists in the here and now.

Character journeys spanning several decades can now conclude in only a mere few hours, and scenarios that would normally be limited to revealing information in a linear sequence can now be rearranged into any order the filmmaker sees fit – sometimes even giving the audience an advantage over the characters.

This curiosity, as I mentioned, has shaped our entire philosophy of life. And thanks to the invention of film, the ‘simpler’ things in life have become just that much more complicated.

Movies have given way to our primal curiosity. Movies have shaped us and made us more aware of our world. They’ve also inspired us to marvel at our own creativity and experience the world from the mind and perspective of a time traveller.

Movies have given us a stronger appreciation for days gone by, for times lost and for memories thought to have been pulled deep into the depths of the unconscious.

Without movies, our innate curiosity would only be able to extend its hand so far, and life itself would seem just that little bit simpler.

What a soulless life that would be.

By Lee Thorneycroft

Remembering Srebrenica

Edmund Burke once said that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. With this powerful quote in my mind, I didn’t know what to expect from the journey that I was about to make to Bosnia, for an educational trip in December 2014, through the Remembering Srebrenica charity initiative, but I did know it will be one that will teach me the importance of fighting for social justice throughout my life and to continue to do so even when the smoke has cleared.

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Although, the Genocide in Srebrenica happened in 1995, it is a genocide that we should never forget because of the tremendous pain it caused and the damage it did to the people of Bosnia. The educational trip taught us how the passive behaviour of the United Nations led thousands of unarmed civilians to their deaths only because they followed a different religion and because, as it seemed, more importance was placed on securing land for Greater Serbia over humanity.

The survivors of Srebrenica till this day are hurting and trying to come to terms with what happened to them and their loved ones in 1995. What keeps the survivors going is the hope of prevalence of justice through the courts. Hope because what else do you have when everything else is taken away from you? Many survivors hope till this day that their loved ones are still alive because their bodies were never found. Hope is one of the greatest weapons for survival. It empowers people to raise their voices against injustice.

As a matter of fact, Bosnia is still trying to build itself back up again from the ashes it was reduced to. Distrust, pain, broken lives and a broken community from once what it was. This is visible in the landscape in Bosnia. You can see the scars and you can certainly feel that there is still a lot of work to be done.

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How could this have happened in Europe again when the world had pledged never again after World War Two, and on a continent which leads the way in regards to justice and human rights. Why was the International community unresponsive to the provision of help needed?

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From 11th  to 16th  July 1995 the Bosnian Serb forces of Karadzic and Mladic massacred more than 8,372 Bosniaks only because they were Muslims. Many of them were hunted down in the woods and forests near Srebrenica and many of their bodies are yet to be found. These were men who knew the international community was not going to help them in their hour of need and so fifteen thousand Bosniak men begun on a horrific 63 mile journey through mountains and minefields to Tuzla for safety. Many died along the way in the most inhumane way possible. These were unarmed civilians. Some of the victims were as young as 5 years old and some as old as 94 years old. All of them were someone’s brother, husband, son, father, grandfather. Hasan Hasanovic, one of the few survivors said;

The instinct to survive is a powerful one, but nothing spells death like the face of a helpless man, so, we just looked away from each other.

At the same time, 23,000 women and children were forcibly deported. Prior to this they burned down 269 villages in the region. There was a systematic plan in place to drive and kill all those that stood in the way of creating Greater Serbia. Margaret Thatcher described Serbian ethnic cleansing as combining;

The barbarities of Hitler’s and Stalin’s policies toward other nations.

Thatcher also described what was happening in Bosnia as a second Holocaust.

Background to the conflict

In 1991 Yugoslavia disintegrated into civil war. Serb Nationalism was rampant in the early 90s. Serb Ultra nationalist led by Slobodan Milosevic had launched a campaign to create greater Serbia. Through an unequal fighting, they drove Croats and Muslims out of parts of Bosnia and Croatia, which they hoped to incorporate into Greater Serbia.

In 1993, the United Nations Security Council declared Srebrenica the worlds first internationally protected safe area. With Bosnian Serb forces positioned to overrun the territory of 60,000 Bosnian Muslims, the UN astonishingly demilitarised the town. Bosniak soldiers were forced to hand over their weapons. UN arranged for peacekeepers to protect the city’s inhabitants. UN secretary general at that time, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, asked UN member states to contribute 37,000 peacekeepers to defend Srebrenica. However this request was criticised and was scaled back to 7,600 peacekeepers. More than any other act this decision was the beginning of the end for the civilians of Srebrenica. By July 1995, only 400, not very well armed Dutch peacekeepers remained in the town. When Serb forces launched a major offensive on 6th July 1995, Dutch forces requested NATO air strikes twice to stop the Serb forces advancing. UN commanders repeatedly rejected requests. On July 11th 1995 the request for bombing was finally approved but it was too late. The enclave fell to Serb forces on the 11th of July in 1995.

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The Aftermath

In December 1995 American and NATO soldiers arrived in Bosnia to implement the Dayton peace accords. The Dayton Accords has played a big part in allowing Bosnia Serb nationalists to veto any efforts by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnia Croats to create a strong central government.

Ethnic tensions are still present in Bosnia. It is unfortunate to discover that the population of Srebrenica was majority Muslim before the war and now they are in the minority, so far only 2000 people have returned to the region.

It is estimated that 20,000 Bosnian soldiers committed war crimes and only 500 have been convicted. In addition, 20,000 rapes have been reported, when it is estimated that 50,000 women were raped during the war in Bosnia; shockingly only 7 soldiers have faced trial over rape charges.

Hope for justice through the courts is proving slow and painful for many survivors, who have to live with the ordeal again and with the fear that those who are guilty walk away free.

Sarajevo 2 303The International Commission of missing Persons is responsible for the heavy task said that they uncovered the remains of one man in four different gravesites, 50 kilometres apart. We had to carry out 13 separate DNA tests to identify him. To help many survivors get closure over what happened to their loved ones, on 11th  July every year, the victims and survivors of the genocide are honoured, on Srebrenica Memorial day. Nigel Casey, British Ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina explains that;

It is a moving and emotional occasion for all those present. For the families of those being buried, it is the first chance to say goodbye properly to their loved ones.

There are on-going discussions about reconciliation between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs; however this is not going to be an easy task without justice being served first. The international community can also help play a part in healing pain of the survivors by simply acknowledging that Genocide did happen, by showing solidarity with the survivors, and by pushing for justice to be given domestically. An EU resolution was introduced on 15th January 2009 by The European Parliament to call on the council and the commission to commemorate appropriately the anniversary of the Srebrenica Potocari act of genocide by supporting Parliaments recognition of 11 July as the day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide all over the EU, and to call on all the countries of the western Balkans to do the same.

The importance of Activism

Reading about what happened in Bosnia in 1995 cannot be compared to actually meeting the survivors, hearing first-hand accounts of what happened, and being at the centre of where those horrific acts happened. It is a profound experience, one that stays with you. The visit also helps to put things in perspective, especially how any effort to challenge injustice and discrimination is better than no effort. It is important for all to take steps in creating a safer society, one that respects differences and celebrates diversity.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust reminds us that:

Genocide does not just take place on its own, its a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented.

Waqar Azmi, the chairman of Remembering Srebrenica said:

There is no doubt in Britain we have come a long way on race relations and achieved a lot. However, we must also recognise that there is still a lot to do. Racism, discrimination and the promotion of hatred, continues to persist. We must recognise the dangers of these and understand the failure to play our part can result in something gruesome.

In addition, Professor Timothy Winters of the University of Cambridge highlights that:

As xenophobic and anti-muslim parties gain in popularity in our troubled Europe, the memory of Srebrenica reminds us of the fearful end point of ethnic hatred. The victims of July 11th live in our memories, urging us never to forget the duty to respect and protect those whose religion and culture is different from our own.

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The importance of promoting peace, respect and co-operation within our communities is vital.

Unfortunately, in recent times we have witnessed history repeating itself on different continents of the world. Injustice is still taking place, to name a few  in Burma, Palestine and Central African Republic.

Genocide is crime that needs to be prevented at early stages. History does not need to repeat itself. Chief Rabbi The right Hon Lord Sacks said History is not a film endlessly repeating itself. The ending has not been written History is made by our choices. And nothing that has happened in the past forces us to let it happen again.

Written by Sophia Begum

 

 

 

The Ugly Side of War & The Beauty of Survival: Lessons Learned from Srebrenica

It’s been a while since I have written an article. My thoughts and experiences are sometimes difficult to express and capture into words. In fact, this is the first time that I feel compelled to write an article to share my personal thoughts and experiences. Therefore, I hope what I am about to share with you, will help you to have an understanding of the physical and mental journey that I have taken to understand what it really means to hate, forgive and survive.

I have recently returned from Bosnia and Herzegovina; where I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in a learning trip with 20 young leaders from all parts of the United Kingdom that included; London, Birmingham and Manchester. The trip was organised by UpRising and Remembering Srebrenica. The purpose of the trip was to honour the memories and the courage of all the victims of the Bosnian war and genocide. With the aim that we would all use the lessons from the dreadful events in Srebrenica to create a better world, one in which our differences become our strengths, and the only thing left intolerable is injustice.

Prior to attending this learning trip, I had some knowledge of the Bosnian war and the genocide which happened there. But to be honest, I did not have a comprehension of what exactly took place and how many victims there were.

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On our first night in Sarajavo, we were taken to meet Tariq Samarah at his Gallery 110795. At the gallery we watched a documentary about the war and the genocide. During that evening, I was shocked to see and find out that on 11 July, in 1995, 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically massacred in Srebrenica. The gallery had a collection of unforgettable and distressing photographs taken by Tariq Samarah that captured the severity of what happened in Srebrenica during the war. When we asked Tariq, if he hated the oppressors and what was happening to his people, he said œwhen you hate someone for any reason, you let in weakness. He then explained that he took those photographs out of love for the people of Bosnia.

After visiting the gallery, I wanted to know more about the war and genocide. I wanted to understand why there was no intervention by the United Nations and the international community. I had many questions about the war and some of these questions were answered by the informative booklet that we were all given.

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Throughout the whole trip, I could not stop reading the booklet and thinking back now, I believe this booklet helped me to cope with some of the shocking facts and stories that we saw and heard during the trip. There was a quote in the booklet that has stayed in my mind. The quote said; Ethnic cleansing was at the heart of the Bosnian war right from the earliest days. When I saw this quote, I speculated how ethnic cleansing can be part of a war which took place only 20 years ago; this seemed barbaric, inhumane and unbelievable. The more I read about the Serbian policy on ethnic cleansing, I was shocked to learn that this involved mass rapes and death camps. I found out that there were 20,000 rapes that had been reported, with 50,000 women estimated to have suffered sexual violence. The youngest age recorded of a rape victim was 12 years and during the war there were 10,368 women killed. The shocking fact about this is that only 7 soldiers had faced trial over rape charges and only 1 soldier pleaded guilty.

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In the following days, we had a very busy schedule that involved visiting historical locations and meeting historians, academics, specialists and survivors.

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On our third day, we met three mothers who had survived the systematic massacre in Srebrenica. These incredible women had lost their husbands, sons, brothers and nephews. I was astonished at the bravery of these incredible women, who sat with us as we watched a documentary detailing the death march and executions. I struggled to watch the documentary and I could not grasp the struggle and pain that these women had gone through.

After the documentary, we heard the individual stories of the women, which was overwhelming to hear. One of the women said to us that she sees us as her children and she does not see our religion or ethnicity. When she said this, I was moved because I could see in her eyes a mother who had lost her entire family. When we asked the women if they can forgive the Serbian soldiers and if they hated them; they said to us that they don’t know how to hate but they cannot forgive. They also said forgiveness is an act of an individual and if they were given the chance to kill the Serbian soldiers responsible, they would not. I understood what they meant by forgiveness, but I was marvelled by the courage they displayed in not returning an obviously hateful act with a hateful response, even after all the loss and pain that they had gone through. It was remarkable to hear their stories and what they had endured.

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Later that day when we visited The International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP), I realised that these three women along with the other mothers who had survived, had to re-live the pain of losing their families over and over again. You see during the war, the Bosnian Serb military did not only massacre and bury the bodies of the Bosnian Muslims, but they would also dig up their bodies and re-bury the remains at various locations. This was done to conceal the mass killings and make it seem like the buried bodies were casualties of war as opposed to innocent civilian victims. This means that at the end of the Balkan war 40,000 people had been reported missing and in 1996 the ICMP was established to find the missing people. To identify the thousands of bodies recovered from mass gravesites, ICMP uses DNA from blood and bone samples. Since 1996 ICMP has taken 71,195 blood samples. What this means for the mothers is that they would have re-live the pain of their loss, every time remains of a body is found. I found this very difficult to cope with, because if I had to go through that kind of pain over and over again, I don’t know if I would be able to depict the same patience and grace that I have witnessed with these mothers.

When I asked the surviving mothers, what I can do to help, they said to me three things, one; spread love and not hate. Share what you have learned here with others, two; we want to be recognised by United Nations and three we want our economy to improve so we can provide jobs for our young people.

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I believe in the power of words and stories to change lives for the better and by attending this trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina I have taken a physical and a mental journey to understand what it really means to hate, forgive and survive. By writing this reflective article, I hope I am able to shed light to the consequences of hatred and misunderstandings between people. Therefore, I have learned that hate is a very powerful human emotion that can lead people to do very evil and unimaginable inhumane acts. But love can lift the human spirit to endure pain, loss and struggle to become a survivor and a positive energy that can in turn heal the hearts of many. Love can help people to see the good in our differences, regardless of religion, gender or nationality, just like the mother who said to us that she sees us as her children.

The incredible bravery and strength of the mothers that I had the honour of meeting has had a profound impact on me and how I see the world.

Please help me to honour the memories of all the innocent victims that have lost their lives to hatred by sharing this article and as a result ensuring that such horrific things do not go unnoticed or overlooked. All the innocent victims were more than just a statistic; they were fathers, husbands, sons but most of all they were loved ones.

Written by Farah Mohammoud