Mr Macpherson has been a passionate advocate for improving our understanding and awareness of a very tragic period of our recent history. The mass genocide that took place in Srebrenica in Bosnia, in the 1990s is not widely known about and too rarely discussed—despite how recently it occurred. More than 8,000 people (mostly Muslim men and boys) were murdered in Bosnia in 1995. Sexual violence was a key feature of the genocide, affecting thousands of women and also men. The lessons to be learned from this dark period of modern history are invaluable to young people in today’s current geopolitical climate. The new education pack will raise awareness of this period of history across the classrooms of Scotland and emphasise the consequences of allowing prejudice and intolerance to take hold.
Remembering Srebrenica UK organises commemoration events to mark the acts of genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s. Through raising awareness of this period of history, the charity hopes to build safer communities by learning the lessons of what happened and why. The UK charity was founded by Waqar Azmi OBE, the UK Govt’s Chief Diversity Officer, and Remembering Srebrenica Scotland is chaired by the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood OBE, former Moderator of the General Assembly and Chair of Youthlink Scotland.
“Understanding why it happens, and how it can be prevented, is crucial in the education of children and young people,” said Dr Hood in an interview for The Church of Scotland. “There is recent evidence of a rise in hate crimes towards those considered different and non-white even here in Scotland. Our new and revised education pack will help young people understand how prejudice, discrimination, exclusion and intolerance diminish and degrade members of our community and may prevent them from taking and enjoying a full role in society. The story of Srebrenica is not ancient history, it is a recent event in a European country and a reminder that genocide isn’t something that happens somewhere else.”
Mr Macpherson, a member of the Academic Advisory Board for Remembering Srebrenica UK and a former community champion for RS in England, has spent years working to increase awareness and understanding of the events of Srebrenica. In 2017 he took pupils to Srebrenica and Sarajevo, and their findings were presented at the Telegraph Festival of Education.
When Mr Macpherson was appointed to be Dollar Academy’s newest Assistant Rector last year, he moved north to Scotland and joined the Remembering Srebrenica board in Scotland. In Scotland, Mr Macpherson was pleased to note that the charity has strong cross-party support. Remembering Srebrenica Scotland has sent Ruth Davidson, Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, amongst others, on visits to Srebrenica. Johann Lamont and Gail Ross are board members. Mr Macpherson himself was made chair of the Education Committee, and he has wasted no time in seeking to have a study of Srebrenica incorporated into the Scottish History curriculum.
‘We have redeveloped the Education Pack,’ he said, ‘and it has been designed to cover two core areas for teachers: subject knowledge and curriculum design. We will work with various agencies to promote it, including Education Scotland.’ The first group of teachers received training on how to use the pack on Wednesday 23 May, which was followed by White Armband Day at parliament, marking the day when the Bosnian Serb authorities in Prijedor ordered all non-Serbs to wear white armbands, and mark their houses with white flags, to identify themselves.
To further promote understanding and awareness of the charity’s work, a conference is being held at Dollar Academy on Wednesday 27 June. The conference is aimed at pupils in S4, S5 and S6 who are interested in learning more about what happened at Srebrenica. It will have particular appeal to pupils who would like to go on to read Forensic Science, Criminology, History, International Relations, Politics and Law (or similar disciplines) at university. Conference presenters include:
Kurt Bassuener who has worked in analysis-based advocacy in Washington DC, for the Balkan Institute, Balkan Action Council, US Institute of Peace, and International Rescue Committee.
John Clark, a forensic pathologist who was appointed Chief Pathologist for the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in its work in the Balkans, examining the victims of war crimes in Srebrenica, northern Bosnia and Croatia.
Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood OBE, retired recently after 37 years as a Church of Scotland Minister. She was also Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 2013 to 2014, and an Honorary Chaplain to the Queen since 2010. After a trip to Srebrenica in 2014, Lorna agreed to set up and Chair the Remembering Srebrenica Scottish Board.
Robin Macpherson, a board member of RSS and chair of the Education Committee. He has been involved with the charity since 2016 when he first visited Bosnia and has since taken pupil trips to Sarajevo and Srebrenica. He is an Assistant Rector and History teacher at Dollar Academy.
Fiona Malcolm, a member of the RSS Education Committee. She has been involved with Srebrenica education since 2016 due to a collaboration with Hampton School in London which led to a joint award for Outstanding Contribution to Srebrenica Education. She is Faculty Head of Humanities at Braes High School.
Robert McNeil MBE is a board member of RSS. In 1996 he joined the first international forensic team in his capacity as a forensic technician. He travelled to Bosnia to help gather evidence on behalf of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo numerous times between 1996 and 2002, and has also worked in Ireland, Sierra Leone and in Thailand following the SE Asia tsunami. His last deployment was to France, helping identify WW1 British and Australian soldiers buried in mass graves. After retiring, he took up painting and has exhibited his work throughout the UK.
Info on the charity: https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/