Saturday, 28 May 2011

an unjust world

Just before Easter eight of our street folk were arrested on charges of human trafficking. Are they guilty? Of trafficking in the true sense of the word ... definitely not. Are they guilty of being victims of society who live their lives on the streets ... yes they are. Street life is harsh and the "street kids" live in "families" in which the younger ones produce the money and the older ones protect them, and look after them, and yes, ocasionally hit them if they refuse to go out and make money.

Is it wrong? Yes it most certainly is. Do I agree with this way of life? Do I sanction it in any way? No I don't. Do I recognise that it is a sad part of the reality of life on the streets? Yes I do!

International pressure on Romania to "do something" about the problem of trafficking is probably the main reason for the arrests. The real human traffickers, the ones who make good money out of it are too clever to get caught or have connections in high places and escape justice. As is so often the case in this unjust world in which we live, it is the ones at the very bottom, those who have no money or influence, those whose lives are already a tale of woe and suffering who pay the price.

Several of the "witnesses/victims" in this case are illiterate, yet their statements display a high degree of literacy, using words and phrases which I am convinced they have never heard of or used in their lives. Three have told me that they were offered cigarettes and a small amount of money by someone if they agreed to the statement and put their fingerprint of cross on it.

As both the accused and the accusors are all young people with whom we work, I love them all and feel only pity for them - all are victims in one way or another. If found guilty those accused face up to 20 years in prison ... a lifetime locked away, and for what? For trying to survive life on the streets in whatever way they can.

Do I blame Romania, the prosecution or the local police for this travesty of justice? Ultimately, (with a couple of exceptions) no - most of them are just trying to do their jobs in the best way they can ... the pressure on the "system" here in Romania to be seen to be doing something is immense. Because of its geographical location Romania is a country of origin, of transit and of final destination of trafficked human beings but the traffickers are from all over Europe and beyond. Once again, Romania's geography is against her, just as it was in past centuries when she was repeatedly invaded and looted by armies from every direction.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Finally ... we can use the dining room

Since managing to renovate the dining room last year we have not been able to use it for its intended purpose. We needed a space for an office and also for private conversations or counseling so we improvised, using the dining room and continuing to serve food in one of the activity rooms. But finally, thanks to the new office, we now use the dining room every day and it has made life easier for us, no more need to carry bowls of hot soup all the way through to the activity room. When Irina is here she's great at keeping order, as you can see from the photo below ... she doesn't put up with any nonsense at the table!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

new kids on the streets

From time to time a new child or young person appears begging somewhere on the streets of Arad. For the first contact we just chat to the child and if they say they are hungry we buy them something to eat, as in the case of this young boy who was begging outside one of the supermarkets. We try to put the child at ease, over a period of time building up a relationship so that the child trusts us enough to come to the day centre.

These two rascals were begging on the main boulevard of Arad and were very suspicious when we tried talking with them. They refused to give names or any information about themselves, assuming that our intention was to take them away and put them in a children's home! We persevered for a while and then I remembered that I had some toys in the minibus which someone had donated and hadn't yet been unloaded at the day centre ... two skipping ropes later we were chatting away happily. I invited them to come to the centre but don't expect to see them for some time, it is usually a while before children feel safe enough to come.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

"Inviere" - Resurrection service

Just a few images from the Easter Resurrection service at our local Orthodox church on Easter Saturday night. It's the one part of Easter that we really wouldn't miss - hundreds of people all meeting together at the church before midnight and then all walking around the church carrying candles ... beautiful and very moving. After three times around the church there follows a small ritual where the Priest knocks on the church door three times. Each time someone inside shouts out and asks who is knocking on the door of the house of the Lord and each time the Priest answers "we come in the name of the Risen Lord". Then usually the church doors are opened and everyone enters the church but this year the Priest said that as there were so many people, the service would all be held outside.

At the end of the service around 0200 a spotless lamb is brought into the service ... the photos didn't come out of the lamb as it was so dark, but it was beautiful and thankfully it's just symbolic ... no actual sacrifice takes place!