0
0
0
s2smodern

„Try to win our students for a social engagement!”
Father Axel Bödefeld SJ has a desire for the students of his Loyola High School which is regarded as the best school in Kosovo. Ignatian pedagogy aims more than best results in comparative tests. It wants the elite students to receive an education for their hearts, too.

One day I encounter Saide on the street. 15 Cents is what she gets for a kilo of metal garbage. With her old wheelbarrow she has stopped along the street in order to take a rest. In a dirty puddle she is washing her face. She takes me by the hand and introduces me to her neighborhood, to every house and family. I find myself in the Roma quarter “Tranzit”, right next to the high way. Here, the need is biggest – this is where I want to take the Loyola students.

Loyola High School and Tranzit are two extreme worlds. On the one hand the sharp looking EU-colored uniforms with bright yellow tie, worn by Albanians of good families, on the other hand ratty street clothes with muddy boots, worn by children that never went to school. 95% of Kosovars are Albanian. With Roma they do not want to have any contact. Supposedly during 1999’s Kosovo war the gypsies were fighting alongside with the Serbs against Albanians – this is used as legitimation of the hatred. In order to escape the prejudice, many deny their identity as Roma and call themselves Ashkali. Will it be possible to build a bridge between the two worlds? Overcoming the wall will be healing for both sides. Loyola can bring education, uplift, recognition, perspectives and a new creative joy to Tranzit. But Tranzit can help Loyola and its students too: with a more responsible and reconciled life, with a deep formation of personality.

Who can help me to overcome the wall?

My superior advises me to contact Ruth Zenkert from whom he once learned first steps in social work. Today she is building up social projects together with Father Georg Sporschill SJ in abandoned Roma settlements (http://www.elijah.ro/en/). I write an email to ask for a skype meeting. Instead she proposes me to visit her and her work “Elijah”. I follow her invitation with the plan to stay for three days. Quickly I realize that I find what I am searching for: Living together with Roma, instead of working for them; sharing life instead of helping. Empowering each other by exchanging gifts. And in all that: finding God. I stay and dive in, for three months – in order to receive my formation by the spirit of Elijah.

Back in Kosovo I take up my relationships to the Ashkali of Tranzit and the students of Loyola. The bridge building between the two worlds starts. Two Loyola students have the courage to accompany me to Tranzit. Leila and Premton open the gate to the other Loyola students. Their friends feel being needed now. In a little while, a wave of youth is ready to step in. They realize how they can change the world: In Tranzit, almost nobody goes to school, the young ones cannot learn to read and write. Loyola students become teachers. Every day they visit Tranzit to bring the kids the alphabet. Our first classroom is a carpet outside right in front of the barracks. Turning the downtrodden into upclimbers is the goal. The kids are bursting with joy when they see the Loyola minibus arriving. The elder youths though are cursing, blocking, violating.

But then a key moment changes everything. A tractor bangs into the first classroom we rented in Tranzit. The driver crushes through the windows. He is badly injured. That moment the elder youths understand that they can achieve more than disturbance. They can save life. In the wheelbarrows they normally use to collect garbage they take care of the broken glass and the injured driver. From this moment on two of them – Ramize and Ramadan – are on our side: not against, but for and with us. Their comrades follow them. They are the ones that can open up Tranzit’s Ashkali community from the inside and invite the anxious Loyola students to step into a relationship. They convert the helpers into friends.

Every child can earn an instrument

Elijah is the model for our bridge building project “Loyola Tranzit”. We start with a music school. It is the secret heart of the community. Every child can learn an instrument and thereby even more than music. Our music teachers are Albanians. They managed to overcome the wall separating them from gypsies. Marigona, our teacher of transverse flute, lives herself at the border of an Ashkali quarter. When introducing me to her neighbor families, she asked them for forgiveness – “for all these years I did not even greet you”. Loyola students, volunteers, music teachers, the difficult and problematic ones experience, how responsibility for others transforms their own lives. We count on the change of roles. At Elijah, former street children now are the best social workers, musicians, community builders. When they came to Kosovo to help us spark the fire for music, they were models for the Tranzit kids. In Loyola Tranzit, students become teachers. They achieved that every child now goes to school. Ramadan, Ramize and their comrades are way too old for school, but they asked us to give them intense courses to gain a school certificate. The former troublemakers became the pillars of our community. Ramadan helps the younger kids with their homework and Ramize is the coordinator of the Kindergarten. Where lies their future? Elijah paves perspectives through education: Bakery, carpentry, home economics, weaving mill, butchery, agriculture. Which perspectives can we open up for Ramadan and Ramize? In the communities of Elijah and Loyola Tranzit we pray together, every day. Ecumenical in Romania – Catholics and Orthodox, interreligious in Kosovo – Christians and Muslims. To the forming of a community there is probably no stronger instrument than praying together. And no more beautiful end.

Elijah and Loyola are partners. I often go to see Georg Sporschill, loaded with questions. What do I do with parents that use their children to blackmail us: only if we give them new shoes, they give us their kids? How do I treat the employee that causes more problems than he solves? What do I tell the Loyola students that lost their motivation after the fire of the first hour? We do not find answers, but the next step. Together we are constantly struggling for the Good Spirit, the Jesuit Magis, the Ignatian way of proceeding. In Georg Sporschill I found a companion, consultant, advisor. The spirit of Elijah encourages us in Loyola Tranzit. What is our shared goal? At the end of many discussions, we came up with a mission statement:

Where are you staying? LOYOLA TRANZIT lives community, where Europe is separated: between east and west, young and old, abundance and misery, Roma and non-Roma. The need inflames us. Like Ignatius of Loyola we fight for justice. With fire and gratitude. For the children and their families. Music, relief, education, prayer – finding God in all things. Come and see!

This is the mission Elijah lives. In Loyola Tranzit, we try to share it with our Muslim friends. At the end of my regency I entrust the new social center we started to build in Tranzit to my successors. My hope is that it will be filled with the spirit of two Jesuit works: Elijah and Loyola Tranzit.

0
0
0
s2smodern