American Students Visit HLC: “Victims must not Become Statistics”
SIT Study Abroad, World Learning Center’s program, organized a visit for a group of American college students to the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center (HLC). The course titled: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans teaches students about the causes of the conflict in the Balkans. Through a series of meetings with peace and human rights activists, students learn about reconciliation and efforts to build a civil society. During this study program, students live in ordinary Serbian families, obtaining first-hand knowledge about the impact of the conflicts on the lives of the people in the region.
During their visit to the HLC, students had an opportunity to hear three lectures. Vladimir Petrović talked about the crisis in the former Yugoslavia; Aleksandar Obradović made a presentation about the activities of the HLC as well as future projects of the HLC; whilePredrag Ivanović informed the students about the entire RECOM process, starting from the founding of the Coalition for RECOM to the current public advocating stage.
Students had very positive reactions to the projects based on the voice of victims, primarily the Kosovo Memory Book and RECOM. “The best reparation is the narration”, they observed. Victims must not become statistics; each victim should be presented in the light of the true meaning of the human life – an interesting and important story that has its beginning and its end. The fact that they are not just numbers on the paper but people whose real life stories can be told is a huge moral satisfaction for the victims.
The most significant problem the student noted during their stay in the Balkans is the lack of a culture of remembering. It was unusual for them that the majority of war crimes were not investigated with proper diligence corresponding such terrible human rights abuses. Without a thorough investigation, they emphasized, everything will remain where it is now – in the sphere of nationalistic rhetoric.