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A speech by HRH The Prince of Wales at a meeting with 'families of the missing' in South East Europe at Clarence House

Published on 10th March 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having had the great pleasure of visiting some of your countries exactly a year ago this month, I am so very pleased to be able to welcome you here to Clarence House.

Many of you here today have, I know, experienced suffering of a kind that is hardly comprehensible, and so and I can only begin to imagine the courage that it must have taken to travel to London to speak about your losses.  I do not want to take up too much time – today is about your experiences, and your quest for the truth.  But I hope you will forgive me if I say a few brief words about why I wanted to invite you to join me here today.

During our visit to your region last year my wife and I were deeply moved by the stories we heard about those who had gone missing and the tireless efforts of their loved ones to find the truth.

In the months since, I have thought a great deal about those stories and have been determined to do something to support you, the families, in your exceptional work to promote reconciliation and justice. 

Loss always brings grief.  I know how easily loss can also breed despair – at the pointless cruelty and destruction we witness in our world and at our own inability to understand it.  When we do not know what has happened to our loved ones there is no closure to that grief, no remedy for our despair.

Although there can be no closure to the love you have for those you have lost, I welcome your determination today to move forward.  Recognizing the truth of the past frees us to build for the future.  It is only by putting our responsibilities to the future – to our children and grandchildren – at the forefront of our priorities that we bring healing to our injured world.  Only reconciliation offers the assurance that our children and grandchildren will not suffer the same agonies as our own generation has endured. Although we cannot change the past, we can bring healing to the wounds of the past in order to build a brighter future.

It is therefore my profound hope that your countries will be changed by your quest for truth through cooperation; and that, by working together and with the International Commission on Missing Persons, you will offer a model of reconciliation that will inspire others around the world.

That work requires tremendous courage; a courage I believe we must all try to summon from the depths of our souls, however great the pain.

I have been deeply impressed by the courage, dignity and determination you have all shown in the face of such unimaginable grief.  It gives me great hope for the future and for the generations who will benefit from what you are doing.  I can only hope and pray that, in some small way, you will accept my hospitality today as a demonstration of my personal support for your tireless efforts.