By Savo Heleta
Dear Mr. Wiesel,
First time I read "Night," your memoir that describes your horrific experiences during the Holocaust, was in 2003. In my opinion, two books everyone in the world should read are "Night" and Nelson Mandela’s "Long Walk to Freedom."
I also suffered in my childhood. In 1992, my life was turned upside down when the civil war broke out in Bosnia, my country. At this time, I was thirteen and my sister was eleven.
My family is Serbian and we stayed in our city, Gorazde, which was held under siege by the Serbian forces. Overnight, many of our Muslim neighbors and even some friends began seeing us as the enemy. For two years, my family endured treatment that no human being should ever be subjected to. We were shot at, terrorized, put in a detention camp, starved, and eventually stripped of everything we owned. All this because of our ethnicity.
When I was seventeen, I almost killed a man who had attempted to kill my family during the war. After years of emotional struggle when I considered revenge as the only way to move on with my life, I was blessed to get involved in a youth program designed to help young people in Bosnia to become leaders in their communities. I worked with "former enemies" and this helped me open up my mind.
Over the years, yours and Nelson Mandela’s books, experiences, and work for peace made me think about my wartime experience and subsequently led me to a complete personal transformation.
I went from a teenager seeking retribution to a person seeking healing, reconciliation, and peace. I wrote about my wartime experience and search for peace and reconciliation in "Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia," published in March 2008 by AMACOM Books.
I found somewhere a quote where you say: "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
I completely agree with you.
I tried to find an Op-Ed, an interview, a statement made by you, in which you say something about the current conflict in Gaza and condemn the killings of innocent people.
I couldn’t find anything.
Like you, I dedicated my life to peace building and conflict transformation and management worldwide and promised to never be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.
I am not influential like you, but I still do everything I can to voice my opinion. I write and publish articles. Over the years, I wrote extensively about Rwanda, Darfur, Zimbabwe, and other places where people suffer.
I’m currently writing about the crisis in Gaza and condemning killing of over 200 innocent Palestinian children who were brutally murdered by the Israeli forces in less than three weeks.
– Savo Heleta is the author of "Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia" (March 2008, AMACOM Books, New York) and a postgraduate student in Conflict Transformation and Management at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.