In the final episode of a series of eight Town Hall debates funded by UNMIK to promote dialogue among communities in Kosovo, local officials and religious leaders in Kamenica opened up about their experiences living in a community shared between Kosovo Albanians, Serbs and Roma.
Kamenica mayor and deputy mayor came together and discussed the cause of their ethnic cohabitation. Mayor Qendron Kastrati said citizens of the municipality should be credited with pushing cohabitation forward.
“We, the new governance structure, have been a little more progressive in this aspect and are very interested in advancing such processes, and we consider that it is on us, the youth, to take braver decisions for our future,” Kastrati said. He added that citizens should be treated equally and appraised for their work and professionalism, not on ethnic or religious bases.
Regarding cooperation with the Deputy Mayor, a Kosovo Serb, Kastrati said that he doesn’t consider this cooperation to be an act of national treason, as they have a common cause – to have a diverse and multicultural society.
“We didn’t have the legal obligation to appoint a Deputy Mayor for Communities, as communities comprise merely 5 percent of our population, but I personally don’t speak Serbian too well and we considered it important to have a Serb community representative in our cabinet, in order to ensure the inclusion of Serbian-speaking citizens too.”
Bojan Stamenkovic said that his appointment as deputy mayor of the municipality was followed by various media in Serbian and Albanian, and with quite some negative comments too. “Qendron and I have both courage and good will. Certainly, there is the occasional negative comment, but we don’t pay much attention to them. We believe in real values and work to achieve them,” Stamenkovic said.
Further, Stamenkovic explained there are courses now offered by Kamenica Municipality which will help advance further cohabitation between Serbs and Albanians. “We know all too well that Kamenica is a good example of multi-ethnicity and cohabitation. But we came to the conclusion that the greatest problem faced is communication. We don’t have that problem among the older generation, because older Albanians and Serbs knew the language of their neighbor, but the younger generation has had much less communication in these 18 post-war years,” he said.
Silvija Raskovic, a Communities and Returns Officer in Klina municipality also taking part in the debate, said that cohabitation between Serbs and Albanians is also present in Klina Municipality, but not at a satisfactory level.
At the same time, Tahire Gashi, a civil society activist that heads the non-governmental organization Zana, said that the civil society supports returnees in Klina. She said that local and central institutions should cooperate in organizing common activities for different ethnicities.
Dragisa Jeremic, an orthodox priest from Kamenica who has lived there for seven years, said in the debate that a day when he doesn’t meet an Albanian for a conversation or coffee is a day lost for him. “I am a priest of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kamenica, but to me a day is lost if I haven’t had the chance to meet and discuss with Albanian neighbors, often having coffee together. This is very natural and normal in Kamenica. I have great cooperation with imams here in Kamenica too,” Jeremic said. He added that Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo were always close to one another, and that they should now take Kamenica as an example of cohabitation.
Read the full story at: https://prishtinainsight.com/birn-debates-multi-ethnicity-and-cohabitation-in-kamenica/