Unity in diversity – the work of the local community in Ludbreg, Croatia
“What we need to do is find a way to celebrate our diversity and discuss our differences without breaking our communities.” (Anne Frank)
At our project location in Ludbreg, Croatia, 9 project weeks have taken place so far, often with the focus on working with people with disabilities. Here, you can read more about the development after the project weeks:
Since 22 october 2020, weekly online meetings between people with disabilities, committed young people of former socioMovens project weeks (here called volunteers) and members of the commission for the pastoral care for people with diasbilities of the Diocese of Varaždin near Ludbreg, Croatia are held. This form of pastoral-catechetical content for people with disabilities was approached due to the epidemiological situation and health protection.
The online meetings are a good opportunity especially for those people who are not able to attend live meetings because of the distance of their residence or because of their disability. The meetings take place according to the following programme:
- Check-in: At the very beginning, each participant briefly introduces himself and talks about what has happened in his life in the past week. This expands the circle of acquaintances, the joys and difficulties of everyday life are shared.
- Songs: Afterwards, some songs are chosen to be heard or sing together,“so we form a large choir throughout our diocese of Varaždin and beyond ;)” (Anika Sačić, coordinator)
- Topic: The meetings always have a specific topic, which is regularly led by members of the Commission, and occasionally young volunteers are involved. The topics are related to the time of the church year or the biography of a saint is looked at. Recently, the leaders have the opportunity to share their personal stories with the participants.
It should be emphasised that in the presentation of the topics, the volunteers take care of people with intellectual disabilities, so they regularly use presentations with more images in order that everybody understand the meaning and message of the topic with as little effort as possible.
Besides the current online meetings, there have been, especially before the coronavirus pandemic, regular analogue meetings two hours long for people with and without disabilities. They hopefully can start again soon, depending when the situation with the coronavirus pandemic allows it. „Two years ago, people with disabilities from different parts of Croatia joined us and that is what fills our hearts with immense joy. We have people nearly from the entire diocese of Varaždin, a blind person from Slavonski Brod joined us, then another blind person from Split, etc. Our meetings bring together people with different types of disabilities: intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, blind and deafblind people.“ (Anika Sačić)
The meetings are regularly attended by young people who participated in the project weeks of socioMovens. Thus the local community in Croatia is expanding. Leonardo Šardi, priest and commissioner for the pastoral care of people with disabilities and their families, is also present at these meetings which gives a special dimension to the encounter: „The participants thus get the impression that the church cares for them as well and that the priests are the ones who are there for them and who want to be with them. Recently, one participant, who is his whole life in a wheelchair, stated that he joined us after seeing a post of these meetings on Facebook out of pure curiosity because he was disappointed and outraged by the church at the time. He had the impression that the church is not doing anything about people with disabilities and that they are on side, forgotten. After the first meeting, he decided to attend every next one. He was happy because he has never experienced anyone striving so hard for him.“ (Anika Sačić)
All these projects and meetings also focus on the misson of socioMovens: Giving Europe a soul. „To all of the above, we strive to give Europe a soul, but also to bring back the joy to people (with dissablities) that have lost it through their previous experience of being often unimportant and unnecessary to society and the church. And then, we can see that people with disabilities make friends with various people inside and outside Croatia and talk about their experiences at our meetings. So we can rightly say that, by the grace of God, we do not get tired of giving a soul to Europe.“ (Anika Sačić)
“Friendship is one of the most important things in my life. I meet a lot of interesting people at the zoom meetings. We are all very friendly towards each other. Almost every meeting begins with a musical request from the participants, which the organizers perceive and play via a music channel. Religious topics are mostly covered, but also other things that are important in life. When the corona measures decrease, we want to meet again in live meetings. I feel comfortable in the meetings themselves. Meetings generally means for me more involvement in society, I mean live meetings. What I like the most is that I meet new people with whom I talk about interesting topics.” (Magdalena, blind)
The involvement of young volunteers can, as this article shows, integrate, include and make happier people with disabilities and it can form inclusive relationships. “And this is how people with disabilities actively participate in the life of the church and society.” (Anika Sačić)