Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Echoes of Adeline: First Step … Get Angry

Echoes of Adeline will be a weekly series in which I will highlight a person or organization whose actions remind me of Miss Irby, her values, or her life.

Bosnian kids. ©Griffin Gibson.

A couple months ago I was at the Phoenix Pub in Sarajevo on a Sunday afternoon talking with the other parents while our kids played in the yard. One of the moms there, Anesa—a friend of my wife Taylor—started telling us about her experience during the recent war. While she talked I couldn’t stop thinking about Miss Irby.

On 15 April 1992 Anesa turned 19 years old. That same day she fled Bosnia and Herzegovina as a refugee. She was one of the fortunate ones. Instead of a refugee camp, she lived with some friends of her parents in Slovenia, in a town an hour’s ride from Ljubljana. Slovenia was much safer than Bosnia; their war for independence from Yugoslavia lasted only ten days. However, Anesa quickly discovered that much had changed in the last year.

In Sarajevo, Anesa had been studying at the College of Economics. She hoped to continue her academics in Slovenia. But, when she applied, she was informed that she would be charged as a foreigner, a price she could not afford.  Anesa was shocked. Only a year before, Bosnians and Slovenians had been a part of the same country.  Now she was a foreigner.

She soon realized that she wasn’t the only refugee with this problem.  Throughout the town where she lived, she met Bosnian refugee children who were without schools.  The coffee shops were filled with elementary and middle school kids in the middle of the day. When Anesa researched further, she discovered that the children had been turned away from the local schools because they were foreigners. Each of the refugee camps had special schools for the children, but the nearest camp was an hour’s ride away. The refugees, like her, who lived with family and friends were falling through the cracks.

This made Anesa angry.

Believing that the children deserved an education even if they were refugees, even if they were from another country, Anesa decided to speak with the principal of the elementary school in person.  It was no use.  The Slovenian schools were for Slovenian children, he said. There was nothing he could do about that.

As Anesa told me her story, I was reminded of Adeline. During the war in 1875, Adeline saw refugee children without food, clothing, or shelter. Something inside of her said, “This is not right!” She got angry. 

There is, of course, a wrong kind of anger. But I think that sometimes anger is a good thing. Even Jesus, who most people consider a peaceful guy, got angry enough one time to flip some tables over. Perhaps our problem is that we are not angry enough.

Valentin de Boulogne, "Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple"

When you see an injustice, how do you respond? Do you walk by without emotion? Do you suppress what you feel? Or does something rise up within you—like it did for Adeline and Anesa—that says, “Someone MUST do something about this!” Perhaps we let too many injustices persist in the world because we just aren’t angry enough.

However, anger is not enough. That is where will we pick up Anesa’s story tomorrow . . .


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