Posted by: John Brace | 13th July 2019

What happened at the Remembering Srebrenica event in Birkenhead organised by Wirral Council and the Wirral National Education Union?

What happened at the Remembering Srebrenica event in Birkenhead organised by Wirral Council and the Wirral National Education Union?

                                           

Remembering Srebrenica 11th July 2019 Wirral Change, Birkenhead L to R Steve Baker, Revd Mike Loach, Cllr Tom Usher, Ferdushi Mohshin, Neil Sledge, Mark Camborne and Inspector John Sacker

On Thursday afternoon (11th July 2019) Leonora and I got the bus to a Remembering Srebrenica event (jointly organised by Wirral Council and the Wirral Branch of the National Education Union) held at Wirral Change at 12 Saint Laurence Drive, Birkenhead, CH41 3JD starting at 4.00 pm.

The venue used to be part of St Laurences’ Catholic Primary School before the school closed in August 2010. Part of the former school is now used for Wirral Change, part of the rest of the site but with a different entrance is used by Tomorrow Womens Wirral and I don’t know what the rest is used for.

Although only Councillor Tom Usher (who is the Wirral Council Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education) is pictured above there was another Wirral Council councillor who was also present at the event Councillor Julie McManus (who in addition to being one of the three ward councillors in the area I live in Bidston and St James ward is also the Cabinet Member for Community Services).

There were refreshments at the back of the hall at the start which comprised bottles of water, fruit juice, samosas etc and also an opportunity for people present to register their presence. As we arrived a little early, Wirral Change asked us to wait in the waiting area by reception rather than the hall the event was in which gave me a chance to read the leaflets and understand better the services that Wirral Change provides.

Mark Camborne (Wirral Council) opened the event welcoming people and giving the opening address. He told people of his experiences in the British Army in the Corps of Royal Engineers, how he’d seen tensions in communities and how this had led him to feel it was important to eradicate hate. He was gratified to see the support of Wirral organisations, referred briefly to the Holocaust and then to United Nations involvement at Srebrenica.

Mr Camborne referred to the genocide, mass graves and how he felt this was the worst atrocity since World War II. An event organised for teachers by the Wirral National Education Union held at the Wirral Deen Centre was referred to, which had been about tolerance, respect and diversity as well as involving messages from the survivors.

The Remembering Srebrenica event was about bridging the divide and confronting hate. Mr Camborne referred to the Stari Most bridge in Mostar, which had been destroyed during the ethnic cleansing, but had since been reconstructed.

He continued his theme about confronting hate and challenging those who wish to divide society as well as changing attitudes. The speakers were introduced as having wide ranging expertise and knowledge.

With some closing comments he then showed a brief roughly 8 minute video (which can be watched below but I will warn contains some distressing scenes discussing ethnic cleansing and genocide).

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Bridging the Divide: Confronting Hate (Remembering Srebrenica)

Other speakers at the event were Reverend Mike Loach and Ferdushi Mohshin who did a joint presentation and also who lead a minute of silence.

Reverend Mike Loach talked about fake news and how he felt that both the headlines and articles published by some British newspapers were exacerbating racial tensions in British society. He also talked about the role of social media too.

Ferdushi Moshin talked about her experience as a teacher at a primary school in Birkenhead and her distressing experiences in Britain and the hatred she encountered on both ethnic and religious grounds as a Muslim woman of Bangledeshi descent.

Reverend Mike Loach who regarded Ferdushi Moshin as a friend also related conversations as to how people within his Christian community disapproved of him associating with someone of a different religion to Christianity. He however did not agree with this viewpoint and saw interfaith communication as important.

Following this joint presentation Steve Baker (who is a headteacher) talked about his previous role as a war crimes investigator. He previously spoke at a public meeting of all Wirral Council councillors when the Remembering Srebrenica motion was decided on the 9th July 2018. As that was filmed by myself and is broadly similar in content to what he said on the 11th July 2019 it is included below.

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Steve Baker speaking about the Remembering Srebrenica motion 9th July 2018 at a meeting of Wirral Council councillors at Wallasey Town Hall (29:14)

Inspector John Sacker of Merseyside Police (whose role is community engagement) spoke next but explained that as he had come up from London and he would have to go back to London directly after his speech therefore he wouldn’t be answering any questions from those present.

He spoke mainly about a visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia and how that Merseyside Police would welcome headlines in the press about a 200% increase in hate crime reporting as many hate crimes in Merseyside go unreported.

Neil Sledge (who is the Wirral National Education Union International Officer) spoke next mainly about how children in schools at different ages can be taught about the lessons of Srebenica and the role that education plays.

Ferdushi Moshsin and Reverend Mike Loach spoke again (although I’ve covered most of what was said above).

The event was then closed by Mark Camborne who urged those attending to fill out a feedback form and hand it in before they left.

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