Committed To Peace: Kosovo's Children Say Enough
Enough is enough: Kosovo's children are committed to peace
By Rudy Scholaert – World Vision Kosovo Correspondent
Article and Image Courtesy of World Vision: Photograph by James Addis – World Vision Correspondent [Auckland].
I waited in the cold December morning for a bus to take me to a remote village in the mountains of southern Kosovo. A young Serbian boy stood beside me, looking bewildered. We watched the buses pull up with UN police escorts, lights flashing and sirens squealing.
The buses were filled with Albanian children. The young Serbian boy moved closer to me, as his eyes grew wider. He held a small piece of paper in his hands. I asked him his name.
“Dušan” he said, “I’m 12 years old”.
“What is that you’re holding?” I asked.
“It’s a poem about peace that I wrote for today’s presentation.”
“And why did you come today?” I asked.
Dušan responded without hesitation, “I want to have Albanian friends”.
And so began our day together. One hundred and eighty-five children, Serbian and Albanian, from four municipalities across Kosovo. Eight “Kids for Peace” clubs from around Kosovo were travelling to a one day get-together at a neutral site in a small skiing village called Brezovica in southern Kosovo.
The “Kids for Peace” program is an initiative led by the children of Kosovo and supported by World Vision. The program aims to promote peace and understanding among a new generation who have seen first-hand the destruction that ethnic hatred brings.
Four years after the crisis that saw thousands of Kosovo Albanians flee into neighbouring Montenegro and Albania, the province is still plagued by violence between the two ethnic groups. A car bomb on a busy downtown street in Kosovo’s capital, Prishtina, injured more than 30 people on the night before the event.
When all four buses arrived and the kids filled the rented hall, all you could see was a sea of bright orange sweatshirts with the words “Kids for Peace” printed in huge white letters. The program began with songs, poems and skits by each club in their own language. Although most children could not speak each other’s language, they nonetheless sang along and participated in each other’s activities.
One club after the next made their presentations that included a number of emotional pleas for peace. Although there were intermittent power failures (as is usually the case here in Kosovo), the children did not let that stop them. They simply sang louder, without their music, as the rest of the children and invited guests clapped along to encourage them.
“Today we are all here together, Serbian and Albanian children. For me this day points towards a brighter future for all of us here in Kosovo,” said Valentina, a 14-year-old Albanian girl from the village of Kraishtë.
And then came the moment for
Dušan to recite his poem. As he stood in front of all the
children and invited dignitaries he looked around the room,
then he spotted me in the crowd and he began. “Dear invited
”Today, we the children of Kosovo are asking from all of you to help us.
“Let us ask our factories to stop making machine guns and tanks.
“Let us ask them instead to make toys and chocolate.
“If they must produce guns, let us ask them to produce water guns.
“And let us use these water guns to extinguish the flames of violence.”
Young Dušan’s words still ring in my head as I now imagine a world where the children of Kosovo may live in safety, protected from the scourges of war. “Let us use water-guns to extinguish the flames of violence.”