The chairman of the Community Relations Council has warned against sliding into the hatred of the past in Northern Ireland.
Peter Osborne was commemorating 22 years since the slaughter of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in the Balkan town of Srebrenica.
He said there should be no return to the prejudice which led to the bloodshed in either country and public representatives who are unable to form a government in Northern Ireland should not use victims as a political football.
He added: "It is time people stood up to be real leaders.
"In the interests of the many not of the sectional few, so that we can make sure that the prejudice the hatred that led to what it led to at Bosnia Herzegovina is not repeated, that the prejudice and hatred that led to what it led to here is not repeated either."
He said politicians in any country entrench because they are weak.
He said: "And we have to challenge politicians to understand what they need to do to be strong and to reach out to the other side of the community in the interests of the many, not in the interests of the few, not in the sectional interests.
"That is a challenge in both countries."
Srebrenica was designated as a UN safe area protected by Dutch peacekeepers.
But as the horror targeting Muslims unfolded in 1995, it became the most unsafe place on Earth.
Mr Osborne said the victims were tied up and shot in the back of the heads over four days by the Bosnian Serb assailants.
They were buried then dug up and reburied in mass graves 30 or 40 miles apart, in a bid to conceal the evidence.
As a result, 1,000 people are estimated as still missing.
Munira Subasic lost her son.
She said: "Two years ago, I found two bones, two remains of my son in two different mass graves.
"I can prove that my son was alive, he did have a life, a lot of mothers who have not found the remains of their children cannot prove that their children were alive.
"There are so many mothers that don't have gravesides to pay respect to their children.
"I am grateful that I have somewhere to pay my respects."
She is president of the Mothers of Srebrenica organisation and took part in an event in Belfast.
Rape was used as a weapon of war during the conflict, 61 children were born as a result.
She added: "We see all those perpetrators now, see the people that killed our children and family members, they are politicians, they are walking free."
She said Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who has been tried for war crimes, was still seen as a hero by many.