Have you ever destroyed your school?


- lived school - lived humanity

Report by Mag. Peter Baumann, religion teacher, LBS Pinkafeld

There have always been classes with different nationalities, cultures and religions at the Pinkafeld state vocational school due to immigration from neighboring countries. For some time now, this diversity of students has been enriched by those who have come to Austria as refugees from the Middle East in recent years. One of them is called Morteza, is 19 years old and comes from Afghanistan. He is currently visiting our school as part of his apprenticeship as a carpenter and recently told his classmates about his home, his escape and his life here in Burgenland.

The country
Afghanistan has almost 30 million inhabitants and is about eight times the size of Austria. This Islamic state has been at war for 40 years to this day. According to his information, 8,000 American soldiers are still in the country as a military occupation. Securing the black gold and oil and controlling access and the pipelines play an essential role. The fighting takes place on many different fronts: the state army, terror regimes such as that of the Taliban and foreign mercenary groups have plunged the country into chaos and blood and destroyed 80% of the infrastructure. The indescribable suffering and the number of deaths never end. The severity of the conflict mostly hits the innocent: the civilian population. Millions of people whose homes have been destroyed and can no longer support their families are therefore forced to leave their homes. Mostly they seek protection and a new beginning in one of the neighboring countries such as Iran or Pakistan, where they are treated inhumanly as third class people despite the same religion and culture.

Context to us
At this point we ask the class how long Austria was last in a state of war, how many people had to flee and also die in the Second World War. Many years of reconstruction were necessary ... the wounds of contemporary witnesses have not healed to this day ... One student says that his grandfather is still silent about it and is traumatized ...

Morteza's family
Morteza's father works as a bricklayer and has to support his family of five (Morteza has two brothers and a sister) with an income equivalent to ten euros a day. Usually too little to live on due to the high cost of living. Morteza was forced to work for the family's livelihood at the age of ten. There is no question of regular school attendance. He has no choice, only one option: to do heavy child labor to secure the family's life.
Since the security situation has deteriorated drastically and the father can no longer use his right leg due to an accident at work and the lack of state health insurance, the family has to move away. In the face of bad news from neighboring countries, the family decides to send Morteza to a new future in Europe. As an asylum seeker on the way to find protection and new perspectives in Austria. The family stays behind ...

Morteza's escape
Years ago, Morteza left his homeland with his best friend to go to Vienna. Nothing works without paid, corrupt human smuggling. The two young men reached the eastern Mediterranean coast at the age of 15 after days of marching through war zones and foreign countries. Everything is foreign, the language, the culture - fear is your constant companion: will you ever come to Austria? Tugs force more than 30 people onto a defective boat that offers space for eight people. The two young men have no choice, they have to continue on the overcrowded vehicle. Then a tragic event occurs on the high seas. The boat threatens to overturn in high waves, panic breaks out and some of the refugees disembark involuntarily. They can't swim, including Morteza's best friend. Morteza wants to help and although he cannot swim himself, he tries desperately to grab his friend and pull him into the ship. After many attempts and the dwindling strength, he has to surrender to the heavy seas and the hopelessness. His friend and others are drowning before his eyes. (Morteza tries to continue speaking, but he can't and pauses, his gaze falls on the floor… We are concerned about things, no one dares to say anything or move…) Morteza asks us whether any of us are already once saw his best friend die in front of his own eyes? His voice becomes quieter and falls silent ...
When only around half of the boat refugees reach the safe mainland of Greece, they are completely exhausted and mentally badly damaged, traumatized by the events in the water. They do not know what is ahead of them. But Morteza must not give up now, he has to go on and on ... The smugglers rule on the Balkan route, not only demand a lot of money, but are also extremely brutal. Morteza is arrested by the police and taken to a Greek prison. There, the last thing he owns is taken away from him. After a few days, he is released and waved to Macedonia. From there he got to Serbia with outside help and, after another stay in prison, finally to Austria via the Hungarian border crossing at Nikelsdorf. He applies for asylum in the Traiskirchen initial reception camp.

Language skills and language acquisition
Morteza: “During the first few months in Austria, I mainly communicated in English. I learned most of the German while catching up on my secondary school leaving certificate, because German courses were included here. In my free time and when dealing with friends, I made sure that German was spoken a lot. My German skills also improved well during my time in vocational school. "

From asylum seeker to asylum seeker

Morteza initially lived with his family in Waidhofen an der Ybbs. He wants to learn German immediately and also work, but there are no official courses and he is not legally allowed to work during the asylum procedure. He finds help from private individuals who organize German lessons for refugees on their own initiative and support him with official channels. It was a difficult time for Morteza. He had hoped for so much from Europe! But the truth is, there are few friendly people willing to help. The people are doing so well here, they have everything and yet only so few are willing to help - disappointment - but he does not give up and seeks contacts, learns German very quickly and receives asylum recognition two years later to stay here and to be allowed to work. After an interview that was conducted in German, Morteza is entitled to asylum. That means his reason for fleeing and his efforts with regard to language and residence in Austria were officially recognized. The family comes to Austria after more than four years and now lives in Vienna. An indescribable moment of happiness and joy for him! (Who of us could imagine not being able to see our family for years ?!)

Morteza is given the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship as a carpenter near Mattersburg. He seizes the chance and soon he should come to the vocational school in Pinkafeld for the first time ... It is important to tell him that he is very grateful to be here! Thankful that he is still alive and that his family is safe. Grateful for the job that he can now learn! Grateful for friends he met and the people who support him! Thankful for the peace here in Austria and the opportunity to start a new life!


And how grateful are we? Everything is so natural! Do we really know the value of our life and our possibilities? Living in peace is such a precious good! To be able to express one's opinion freely and to be able to train and further educate oneself!
How difficult is it for us when we are superficially attached to material things but no longer see life and people?

A student refers to the great cell phones and the expensive clothes of the refugees, who obviously must be fine !?
But the impression is deceptive in Morteza's opinion: Many cell phones are cheap replica models, as are the clothes. On the other hand, there are also refugees who raise money through illegal business such as drug sales and get luxury items. This also has other reasons, in his opinion: During the asylum procedure, those who have arrived are condemned to idleness and find it very difficult to speak the language because they do not have a good education. They are desperate and get on the wrong path through alcohol, drugs etc. and are rightly imprisoned or deported. But that is very shameful, but legally and socially correct and necessary, even if it only applies to a very small percentage.

In the discussion it soon becomes clear that there are good and bad people everywhere, regardless of whether they come from within Germany or from abroad. I refer to Pope Francis, who warns against infiltration (illegal entry of criminals / terrorists), but at the same time asks for the necessary help for legal entry into a prosperous Europe full of abundance for those really in need. This is where politics, the EU states and churches are in demand ...

Another student said that Austria should only help war refugees because too many economic refugees had come to Europe.
Morteza asks us to first get information about what is actually happening in the country where refugees come from and not to discriminate immediately as economic refugees who are not allowed to be here. He himself is an example of the first need to clarify why someone is really there and why not all Afghans are automatically unjustified here.

How much money is necessary when a refugee family moves into an apartment in order to furnish it in a humane manner? Do we taxpayers have to do that?
The students think about it and name amounts between € 500, - and € 3000, -. The fact is, however, that we have so much abundance here in Austria that all used furnishings can be picked up on the Internet free of charge. Many apartments for asylum seekers have already been set up with the help of volunteers. At the same time, personal contacts are created here, which first enable you to get to know each other, to live integration in mutual respect.

Isn't it important that the refugees adapt and integrate honestly with us?
Yes, it is undoubtedly. Like some of the class, Morteza also took part in the ecumenical pilgrimage to Frauenkirchen for apprentices. He wanted to learn something about our culture, our religion and how we deal with one another in society. As a Muslim and as a classmate, he contributed with interest. As a religion teacher at the school, I see him as a positive example of living integration in mutual respect. This path shows a real opportunity for a peaceful and diverse society in Austria's future.

Does any of the students know a refugee personally?
Nobody answers, but we are already in the process of living integration in the class with Morteza! It has obviously become a matter of course. I encourage the students to keep in touch with Morteza after the course at the vocational school. To experience something together: cinema, soccer, games etc. We don't have to worry about hundreds of strangers at the same time, nobody can do that. But we have the opportunity to overcome fears and barriers through a person. This will be necessary for the future in order to prevent parallel societies with the potential for violence. Young people in encounters with other young people: Here at the school we have the opportunity to learn and live integration through personal conversations - in mutual recognition - if we are ready to do so ourselves!

Thank you Morteza for your willingness to tell about yourself!
Much good
for you and your family!