A CHAMPION of racial equality in Worcester has issued a heartfelt appeal for people to see a harrowing exhibition about the worst act of genocide on European soil since World War Two.

Speaking to the Worcester News today (Friday) Dr Waqar Azmi, OBE, the former chief executive of the Worcestershire Racial Equality Council, urged people to visit the exhibition at the Hive about the Srebrenica Genocide 20 years ago.

In 1995 in the small town of Srebrenica more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically murdered by Bosnian Serb forces.

The Balkans war saw over 20,000 women raped in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of 'ethnic cleansing'.

The exhibition called 'Genocide: Remembering Srebrenica' is an exhibition which will describe events leading up to the genocide and display paintings by the artist, Robert McNeil MBE who worked as a forensic technician helping to identify the bodies from the mass graves.

Organised by Dr Val Chapman from the University of Worcester, the exhibition runs from Monday, May 18 to Sunday, May 24.

Founder and chairman of 'Remembering Srebrenica' Dr Azmi, a 45-year-old father of two, who now lives in Bromsgrove, lived in Warndon Villages, Worcester when he was chief executive of the racial equality council between 1996 and 2001, working from its base at Queen Elizabeth House.

He said it was important to learn lessons from the massacre so that it was never repeated. There are opportunities to visit the site of the genocide and speak to survivors as part of the 'Lessons from Srebrenica Visits' programme.

Dr Azmi said: "When you go there that shocks and shakes you. We need to work harder than ever before to make sure we don't allow hatred and intolerance to breed.

"When you meet people there it is so moving. It is unimaginable that people could be so inhuman and be so evil. That's what really makes you think that an integrated society can disintegrate in such a way that the evil of hatred takes over.

"We have to work hard in our country to make sure we don't let the evil of extremism and hatred breed.

"We really need to be vigilant and we really can't be complacent about issues of racism and issues of hatred.

"We really need to strengthen our society to ensure that we do have not just good community relations but that we do all we can to get rid of racism and prejudice in our society."

Everybody who travels to the scene of the massacre must make a pledge that, on their return, they will be champions against hatred and intolerance in the community, to raise awareness and create a better and safer society. The charity also makes available education packs which can be used in schools.

He said of Worcester: "We have this beautiful diversity in Worcester with people of different colours, different religions and different faiths living together.

"Worcester stood against racism and the Worcester we have now is different to the Worcester we had before.

"What we have now is a beautiful city where its diversity means explicit racism doesn't exist. It is pleasing to see there's a strong sense of community and positiveness where people feel safe and people are ready to stand against racism and hatred."