Srebrenica Sermon

By Grand Mufti, Dr Husein Kavazović

Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

29 Dhul-Hijjah 1445 | 5th July 2024

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds, Who tests us with the most severe trials, guiding us to His mercy and granting us boundless and unimaginable patience, hope, and tranquility.

Peace and blessings be upon His beloved messenger, Muhammad, and upon his patient followers throughout all times, the honorable, brave, and proud bearers of goodness and peace among all people and worlds.

We beseech His mercy for the honorable martyrs and all innocent victims of human evil throughout all times, especially our noble Bosnian martyrs.

The land we walk on, in hopes of peace and a peaceful life, has absorbed much goodness. Generations of our innocent and kind-hearted predecessors have enriched its essence, nurturing it with primal goodness, profound faith in the Almighty, and hard daily labor. Their honorable and untainted sacrifices, often childlike in their innocence, have forever marked this land.

Our past holds many events that have found their place in our collective memory. While many of these events are tragic and painful, there are also many we are proud of. They deepen our understanding of one another, foster mutual trust, and strengthen our determination to bravely pursue our common goal: building a stable and peaceful homeland.

The Genocide in Srebrenica, committed in July 1995, has deeply etched itself into both our individual and collective memory. It is more than just a tragic event: it is a cornerstone of our very existence; a dividing line in our identity—we are not the same as we were before the Genocide. It serves as our annual gathering place and a source of our awareness about ourselves and the world we live in.

Everything that happened afterward, brutal and tragic, only completed the picture of this planned atrocity. This crime was preceded and is still fueled by the darkest myths, built on a primitive desire for revenge, which dictates that one must destroy, burn, kill, humiliate, and torture in the most brutal ways.

It is difficult to live with such knowledge and in such an environment, to find joy in life and make plans for a better future.

Yet, day by day, we strive to build a world that reflects the one the Almighty calls us to: O believers, live all in peace and do not follow the devil’s path, for he is your open enemy (Al-Baqarah, 2:208).

At our core, stemming from our faith, is openness and living in harmony with ourselves and others. We cannot ignore Allah’s guidance on this. He warns us: Why do you preach what you do not practice? (As-Saff, 2:2).

Therefore, we are encouraged by the free world’s resolution to silence those who have crossed all boundaries of evil, celebrated criminals, and humiliated victims. The global recognition of the Genocide in Srebrenica, even if only for one day each July, can initiate social processes shared by all of us.

This is a significant act of solidarity, recognition, and defense of the dignity of the victims’ families. For us Bosnian Muslims, it is particularly important that, even on a symbolic level, there are people and governments willing to stand against evil, acknowledge the sacrifice, and do what is necessary for the mothers of Srebrenica to feel kindness and love from others. This act of global empathy and solidarity should serve as a lesson for all of us, to learn from the evil that occurred in our country and reached its peak in Srebrenica, and to recognize the wrong path.

Our thoughts are also with other people of our time, worn out by war, where every human right has been violated. The news we receive daily tells us of unspeakable human suffering. It is almost redundant to mention the criminal and political guilt of those in power who participate in the crimes in Ukraine and Gaza. They will one day have to face justice and answer for their misdeeds; otherwise, we will all descend into an abyss of evil with no escape. But what about the moral guilt of the people in whose name these crimes are committed? And finally, what about the metaphysical guilt of all of us, who, to varying degrees, silently observe this? No, none of us will escape justice, no matter how much we think we are beyond God’s judgment.

Today, more than ever before, we urgently need the resolve to confront the evil that can arise within ourselves. The journey ahead is long and challenging. We will encounter encouragement and obstacles, friends and foes. However, other nations have faced similar trials before us. We must learn from others and teach them what we know and what we have survived.

What happened in Srebrenica serves as an explanation to all people, a guide, and a lesson for those who fear God. We do not lose hope in God’s mercy that He will heal the hearts of those responsible for the fate of the world. We draw our hope and courage from His words, with which He addresses us: ‘And do not lose heart and do not grieve; you will be victorious if you are true believers’ (Al Imran, 3:139).

Dear brothers and sisters,

Let us not allow the dishonorable to discourage us from the path of truth. Let Srebrenica and its testimonies serve as motivation and encouragement for us to work even harder to spread the truth about what happened. Each of us can contribute — in our homes, schools, mosques, universities, and in conversations with people worldwide. The truth about Srebrenica is needed by everyone on Earth.

Let Srebrenica be a symbol of peace and reconciliation, a sign of hope and encouragement, showing that we are ready to face truth and justice, no matter how difficult it may be. We believe that only the truth can save us from delusion and bring us back to the right path.

Our Lord,
Forgive us and our brothers and sisters who preceded us in faith,
Be merciful to us on the Day of Judgment.

Our Lord,
Do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake!
Do not place on us a burden like the one You placed on those before us, and do not impose upon us what we cannot bear.

Erase our sins and forgive us.
And have mercy on us.