Kosovo, an autonomous region of Serbia that is seeking full independence, has a population that is approximately 90 percent ethnic Albanian Kosovars and perhaps 10 percent Serbs. In 1998, open conflict between Serbian forces and Kosovar Albanians resulted in the deaths of 10,000 to 12,000 Kosovar Albanians and forced 400,000 people from their homes, many seeking refuge in neighboring Macedonia and Albania. Following international intervention, as Albanians returned to a devastated country and shattered economy, they and the remaining Serbs faced an uncertain future in terms of Kosovo’s political status and the treatment of an increasingly dwindling Serb population.
In December 2006, Karuna Center was invited by Save the Children and Search for Common Ground to train kindergarten teachers to lead multi-ethnic, multi-lingual kindergartens.
Based on the success of the Search for Common Ground’s Moziak kindergarten program in Macedonia for Albanian and Macedonian children, Save the Children has launched a similar program in Kosovo. Depending on the region, Albanian, Serbian, Bosniak, or Turkish children will join each other and be taught in bi-lingual classrooms. Karuna Center’s training focused on ways to use this program to build a culture of tolerance for the children and their parents, as well as on team-building for the teachers, who must heal from their own vastly different experiences of the war and its aftermath.
Karuna Center led a series of peacebuilding trainings and dialogues for Albanian and Serb young adult community leaders in 2000-01.
At the invitation of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Karuna Center traveled to Kosovo, Serbia and finally Montenegro three times from 2000-2001 to facilitate dialogues between Serb and Albanian young adults, all involved in UMCOR projects in Kosovo. We trained each group separately in skills of conflict analysis, open questions, recognizing prejudice and stereotypes, and finding an alternative to the cycle of revenge so strongly entrenched in Kosovo. By learning to listen to different perceptions and narratives in the years immediately after mass communal violence, participants increased their understanding and acceptance of each other. They were then able to return to their communities and work together more effectively in implementing UMCOR’s projects for interethnic tolerance. These projects included operating internet cafes, cooperative work in training other youth in their own communities on the issues of tolerance and cooperation, communication with the UN authority in Kosovo, and joint journalism projects.