The testimonies come from Pec Peja a town of 150,000 inhabitants, whose double name bears witness to its historic suffering: for 98% of its inhabitants of Albanian ethnic origin it is known as Peja, while for the remaining 2% of Serbian and other minority ethnic origins, including foreigners who work for international organisations here, it is known as Pec.
Here in the courtyard of the only parish with a community of approximately 1,400 Catholic faithful, thanks to Caritas of Venice, a youth centre has been established and is open to all of the town’s youth, no one being excluded. Even at the administrative and organisational level of arranging the various activities, the young Catholics work along side young Muslims, to such a point that 80% of the young people who frequent the centre is Muslim. Unfortunately, the Orthodox youth have not become involved for political reasons, and due to the war of 1999.
An especially significant step, which demonstrates the spirit of harmony that one breathes in this centre, occurred at the beginning of September, when a group of young Catholics from Kosovo left to join thousands of other young people for the encounter with Pope Benedict XVI.
With them was a young Muslim girl called Arjana, who, with her parent’s permission also left for Italy. She too followed the paths of pilgrimage taking her to Loreto in Italy, close to the other young people in the songs and in every moment of the day, from the encounter with the Pope to the recitation of the rosary. She was as happy as one who has had one of her dreams come true. On her return home she couldn’t but share her joy in relating her adventure to her family and friends.
The story of Arjana is a small thing, but it sheds light on the many facts that happen on a daily basis at the youth centre, set up with the aim of promoting peace, coexistence and respect through the sharing of experiences of everyday life.