Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Take This City

The other day I crossed the bridge and went for a walk through North Mitrovica, the Serbian side of the city. I talked to another international who lives there about the burned homes – the homes occupied by Serbs here, the homes occupied by Albanians throughout the rest of Kosova. My friend, who lives and works on the Serbian side with many Serbian refugees from the riots in March of 2004, worked with Albanians for two years in Peja, and is by no means biased toward one people group. We talked about finding the truth in variations of stories we hear. She stated the most complex thought simply – the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The middle, in this city, is identified by a bridge. A bridge I cross so easily, while friends on both sides are unable to cross, out of fear for their safety. At times it seems so easy to me, just one foot in front of the other. Would anyone really attack you in a café? But my usual gift of empathy is stunted here; I can’t comprehend the mentality, based on years of oppression, distrust and war.

Forgiveness is a word bantered about so easily, but is such a complex issue here, and confused with forgetting. How does one forgive years of oppression, being told that you are not worthy of education? Years of state-enforced unemployment and poverty? Watching your father humiliated? Watching your family chased from their homes, watching your home burned? Watching your family killed?

And then, after the war, Serbs name the same list of atrocities. Perhaps on a smaller scale, but the feelings of hostility and distrust run deep in recent history, without delving into the last one thousand years.

Truth. It is subjective here, and I get many different answers to the same question, dependent upon the person asked. I am frequently frustrated when I ask about a devastated home on either side, whether it was done during the war or after? Was it a Serb, Albanian, or Roma Gypsy home? I’ve yet to receive a clear answer, and many times there is debate about whether one side destroyed something of their own in order to blame the other.
How do you find the truth in the midst, in the middle?

Take this city,
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city,
If it be your will

For no man can own,
No man can take,
Take this heart,
Take this heart,
Take this heart and make it break.

“Yahweh” – U2

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