Student Marine Corps Veteran Enlightened at Summer Bosnian Genocide Program 

By Natalie Schmitt, Contributor 

 This past summer Manhattan College sophomore Juan Ortiz, spent a week in Bosnia where he got to be a part of a Bosnian genocide seminar and conference. As a Latino student from the Dominican Republic and a Marine Veteran, Juan has already meticulously worked hard involving himself in the world around him. During his time at Marine Corps, Juan was positioned as an embassy security guard, which is where he would eventually receive his introduction and admiration for diplomacy. 

“My interest in coming to school was international relations and my goal is to become a regional security officer for the department of state,” Ortiz told The Quadrangle.

Ortiz is currently a majoring in international studies and minoring in Arabic with a concentration in Africa and the Middle East. 

As a result of his concentration, he was introduced to Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., director of Holocaust, Genocide, & Interfaith Education Center who presented this unique opportunity to him. 

Afridi also conducts talks in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the museum of Holocaust and genocide which continued aiding intrest in the program for Juan. As per his enrollment, he was one of thirty people selected worldwide to participate in this highly educational Bosnian genocide seminar and conference. 

In this week long program, Ortiz was taught through three days of panels the effects and truths of genocide in Bosnia that have been commonly ignored in mainstream media. 

“It was a great experience that I got introduced to here thanks to Dr. Afridi, it changed my goals a bit,” said Ortiz. “I still want to work for the department of state, but I feel like now I have a responsibility to let people know about this great program to be in to learn about genocide and prevention so that it won’t happen again.” 

 Chole Barth, an international studies major, spoke to The Quadrangle about her own interest in this program.

“When Juan told me about his experience with the program, he inspired me to look into the Bosnian genocide myself,” said Barth. “As International Studies majors, we have our areas of concentration. His choice to learn about a region other than his concentration reminded me that although we each have different goals as students, there is interconnectedness between our studies and ourselves as humans that we must remain aware of.”

Barth stressed the importance of this program for providing accurate historical information and seeking to teach their students about genocide prevention and how they can inform people around them about it. 

Barth and Ortiz emphasized the program’s benefit  to anyone who is interested in partaking in impactful events such as this or even to someone who is curious about what there is to learn about in relation to the Bosnian genocide and the mission of peace. 

As stated on the Post-Conflict Research Center webpage, “Peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of justice, equality, and understanding. Let us each contribute to building a more peaceful world, one small act of kindness at a time.” 

More information can be found about this program on their instagram page, Post-Conflict Research Center @pcrcbih where they dedicate their page to fostering a culture of peace in Western Balkans.