Dictionary of Genocide, Volume Two: M-Z (2008)
By Samuel Totten, Paul R. Bartrop, Steven L. Jacobs
(Purchase info: Hardcover $199.95, Greenwood Press)
Page 471. Entry: Wiesel, Elie and the Bosnian Genocide.
In November 1992, concerned about the continuous reports about mass killing emanating from the former Yugoslavia, Elie Wiesel (b. 1928), survivor of the Holocaust/Shoah, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and committed human rights activist, traveled to Belgrade, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and the Manjaca concentration camp. Upon his return to the United States, he urged U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger (b. 1930), serving in the administration of President George H. W. Bush (b. 1924), of the moral necessity of speaking out against the genocide that was occurring. Wiesel, however, was unsuccessful in his attempt to move the Bush administration (1988-1992) to action.
Eighteen months later, on April 22, 1993, at the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Wiesel further urged then President Clinton (b. 1946) on the necessity of addressing the Bosnian genocide. Against, Wiesel was unsuccessful.
Page 286-287. Entry: Mladic, Ratko (b. 1942).
Ratko Mladic was the commanding officer of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) throughout the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. A Serb, he was born in Kalinovik, in southern Bosnia, becoming a career soldier in the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), in which he was rapidly promoted in rank as the Yugoslav Federation disintegrated. In June 1991, he was appointed as a Corps commander fighting in Croatia, and on May 10, 1992, he became commander of the 2nd Military District Headquarters of the JNA, stationed in Sarajevo. Two days later, with the creation of the VRS, Mladic was appointed its overall commander, second only to President Radovan Karadzic (b. 1945), who held the position of commander-in-chief. The crimes committed by the Bosnian Serb military while Mladic was in charge were many, and, as commanding officer, he was held by international prosecutors to bear command responsibility. On July 24, 1995, Mladic was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. He was held tobe personally responsible for the attacks on UN-designated safe areas, culminating in the capture of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of at least eight thousand of its Muslim male citizens in July 1995. Indeed, Mladic is held by many to have been the military architect of the Bosnian genocide, and, as such, its greatest killer. Despite this, and in defiance of the ICTY indictment against him, Mladic continued to live quite openly following the end of the Bosnin War (December 1995). He even retained his post as VRS commander until December 1996, and functioned fully in that capacity. Without any fear of arrest, he was often seen on the streets of the many towns he visited in an official capacity, attended football matches, dined openly in restaurants, and was observed in a number of overseas locations. With the arrest of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic (1941-2006) in 2001, Mladic began to fear that his days of open impunity could be drawing to a close, and he went into hiding. As of late 2007, he was still at large.
Page 361-362. Entry: Religion and Genocide.
Examples about of the relationship between religion and genocide. Among some of the many examples are the following: the centuries-long role of the Roman Catholic and later Protestant churches in disparaging, ostracizing, and discriminating against Jews, which ultimately influenced the skewed and treacherous thinking and beliefs of the Nazis and thus contributed, in its own inimitable way, to the Holocaust/Shoah; the Ottoman Turk (composed of both Muslims and modernizers) genocide of its Armenian population, who were Christians; the role of the Catholic Church in the 1994 Rwandan genocide (in which some of the bishops, priests, and nuns of the Roman Catholic Church participated as active perpetrators); and Serbian ORthodox Church’s role during the Bosnian genocide of 1992-1995.
Among the world’s great monotheistic religious traditions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam — manifestations of genocide present themselves not only institutionally but theologically as well. For example, by the exclusivist nature of their sacred texts (Torah, the New Testament, the Quran), their self-perception of their own religious traditions as superior and others as inferior helps to create climates and cultures where certain groups have been deemed worthy of support and approval, whereas others have, in certain and various cases, been deemed unworthy of life.
Historically, institutional religions have been (and continue to be) conservative and concerned with maintaining the status quo and preserving their own belief systems and thus, at times, find themselves in collusion with those forces perpetrating a genocide. An excellent example of this is in South America (e.g., Guatemala, Argentina), where at various times during the twentieth century the Roman Catholic Church allied itself with the governments in power and therefore saw the poorest populations subject to military brutality, death, and disappearances.
All of the following are potential factors in the propagation of genocide: the use of so-called “divine mandates” to sanction and rationalize genocidal behavior; the use of sacred texts that propagate “insider-outsider” tensions; and the all-too-common involvement of religious leadership in governmental and military collusion for economic and political reasons.
Because this area of research is still in its relative infancy in the overall field of “genocide studies,” only continued work will result in a more complete understanding of how religion played out in past genocides, those “religious factors” that contribute to genocide, and the type of concrete and positive steps that can be taken by religious communities to either bring to conclusion genocides that have already begun or prevent such from happening. Religious work, of course, also involves healing and reconciliation after tragedies such as genocide, and here, too, religious communities may have much to contribute by bringing together victims and perpetrators, creating environments where such work can begin, and using the power of sanctuary-related activities (e.g., prayer, worship) to further that healing.