Saturday, June 11, 2016

Between Heaven and Earth

By Babs Kamsteeg

Today I have been at the border between heaven and earth. I could not cross to the other side though, only priests are allowed to, but I have nevertheless seen small parts of heaven today on places where earth needs them the most. Today I saw a boy of around 7 smoke a cigarette, I heard about 15 year-old girls who are forced to get married and looked at the pictures of hundreds of missing people. But today I also saw people who offer help, are just there, and really making a difference.

After a drive of only 5 minutes from 'home', I see the surroundings changing drastically. Trash on the sides of the road, groups of small boys hanging around purposely on narrow, unpaved, dusty streets. I realize I'm seeing poverty. A young man approaches us when we get out of the car and asks if we want him to show us around, an offer that we eagerly accept, especially as we were early for our meeting (Enver's people are always on time). We walk through the streets of a Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian community. Our guide sings a self-written song called "Call me peace-man". He removes an empty bottle from the street when he sees I am taking a picture, thinking to myself that he probably wants to make a good impression, but the next thing he does is offer the last part of his cigarette to a 7-year-old boy.

Then it is time for the meeting at The Ideas Partnership. We step inside and a mass of excitedly screaming kids is awaiting us. We get to talk to the children for a little while, and afterwards we get to see the kindergarden, which was partly financed by AUC after the group of two years ago raised money for the organization. It makes me so happy to see this place in the middle of a neighborhood that had shocked me quite a bit and has to deal with so many economic and social problems. Girls should not have to marry so their parents will receive money to live of. 

After the meeting we drive to the stunning Orthodox church Gracanica (see first picture). Our guide explained the beautiful frescos inside, showing us the four evangelists, Jezus, and heaven and hell. If not for Lisa's curiosity, we wouldn't have know that heaven was just a curtain away, but as I said, I think today I've seen more of such boundaries.

A monument, with reference to 'newborn', showing people who went missing during the war in Kosovo.

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