This event brought together over 70 people, including 31 companions from 13 different countries. In addition to playing football, Paul and Tony joined the other participants in workshop sessions, conferences, artistic activities and a visit to the Srebrenica genocide museum and memorial.
In July 1995, the town of Srebrenica witnessed a horrific genocide during the Bosnian War. Bosnian Serb forces captured the town and in less than two weeks, their forces systematically murdered more than 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) – the worst act of mass killing on European soil since the end of World War Two.
The first Emmaus Football Championship for Peach and Human Rights allowed Emmaus-IFS to renew its relationships with groups from Western Europe and show that peace can be reborn despite atrocities, as was the case in Srebrenica. The conferences and workshops included sessions on non-violence, a speech by a survivor of the massacre, and a talk by Afghan photographer Abdul Saboor. During the football games, nobody had a status – there were no longer participants on one side and speakers, organisers, interpreters and sound engineers on the other: everybody joined together to play football.
Commenting on the trip, Paul said: “Amazing. Well worth the trip. Just wow. If I could do it again, I would. It was a great learning curve for me. I’m 54 years old and I learnt a lot more than I’d read in the press whilst there. I was very moved by the whole experience.”
IFS-Emmaus manages a range of impactful projects, including the Reception Centre Duje in Doboj lstok for 430 individuals, monthly scholarships benefiting 1500 orphaned children in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and scholarships for 2994 children in Burkina Faso. They also operate a boarding school for children from Srebrenica in Potocari and run daily centers in Srebrenica, Zvornik, and Doboj. In addition to these endeavors, IFS-Emmaus operates a soup kitchen in Doboj, serving 230 meals daily, and supports sustainable initiatives. They are dedicated to assisting victims of human trafficking and illegal migrants, participating in projects related to preventing child abuse through information and communication technologies, providing services to the elderly in the community, and implementing projects for assisted social accommodation and support for homeless youth through football.