Caritas Albania* organized a photo exhibition entitled “The Dreams We Carry” from 8 to 10 November 2021 at the National Historical Museum, Tirana, which will then travel to other parts of Albania. The ceremony was held on November 8 at 6:00 pm with the participation of the Deputy Minister of Interior, representatives of the Border and Migration Police, leaders of religious communities, diplomatic representatives, Resident Coordinator and heads of UN Agencies, representatives of Albanian Caritas, Austrian Caritas and Italian Caritas, refugee families and media partners. Photographs taken by Renuar Locaj, and the exhibition curated by Oltsen Gripshi, portray the resilience and aspirations of people forced to flee their countries due to conflict, violence, and persecution.
Since 2015, our country has become a transit route for thousands of refugees and migrants who are forced to leave their countries and seek a safer life. They travel in groups, alone or as a family. The journey starts in the country of origin and lasts a long time where a part of their journey is also organized by smugglers and paying large sums. Some of them walk for days on foot, in places, areas dangerous for their lives, many are separated from the group or get lost, others die on the way.
The idea of this exhibition was born as a need to bring to the public and present the issues of migration through photography conveying the images, the identity of these people, the sufferings, individual and family stories, so simple, in everyday, suffered in their journey, trying to give value to what is above all, the desire for life. The images travel in time and different moments, where the portraits of children, women, men, families or of a grandfather with his niece, unfold a great human saga. The exhibition does not only bring the pain and the image of such iconic phenomenon as asylum or migration is, inside the walls of a museum, rather than convey strong and meaningful messages, intertwining them with original elements lived and brought by themselves. The soles of their feet are the most painful evidence of the long journey they have treaded and silently expressed in the form of onomatopes. Abandonment of the hearth, physical and spiritual connection with that land, of the country where these people were born, is the most indelible pledge for the future that awaits them.
Mr. Andi Mahila, Deputy Minister of Interior, stated that the Albanian government will continue to work for the protection of refugees. He also stressed the importance of integrating refugees and asylum seekers. Monsignor Angelo Massafra, President of Caritas Albania, pointed out that in our mission it is about those who are unknown to us, invisible, insignificant, it is about the latest, who, often times, suffer indifference our global and individual, but that in our Christian culture they are “first”. To address the reality of them, we need to develop effective projects and new approaches to protect their dignity, improve their quality of life, and meet the challenges that are emerging from modern forms of neglect, denial, or persecution. He called for this exhibition, these images, to remind us that our main task is to focus on the human”, on the one who is on the journey, on the one whom war and violence have taken away the hope of life but that we, as a good Samaritan we heal the wounds of body and soul by accepting it, but without forgetting to focus on “WE” so as not to be afraid to meet them. Because what is required of us today is compassion, service, acceptance to prove that humanism in this chaotic society exists and must remain a value.
“The voice and moral authority of religions and faith-based organizations is fundamental to sustaining the debate over mixed flows, centered on the essential aspects of dignity and human rights.” said Mr. Pablo Zapata, UNHCR Albania Representative, at the Opening Ceremony of the Exhibition. Also, a Congolese refugee shared her story: “I had a very difficult journey. I never wanted to leave my country. “I am grateful to Albania for enabling me to regain a dignified life,” she added. “The opportunity to be part of such a project, is definitely a privilege for every artist – said during his speech Mr. Renuar Locaj, the Artist of this Exhibition – in addition to being a privilege for me, it is also a reflection. One of the main missions of photography is to inspire people to appreciate life. This is done by drawing their attention to things that most of the time we take for granted, and sometimes even unimportant. Negligence towards what is really important in life – continued Mr. Locaj – is something that none of us can avoid. “This happens to everyone, so it happened to me.”
His Grace, Haxhi Dede Edmond Brahimaj, Chairman of the Interfaith Council Albania, delivered the closing speech at the opening ceremony of the Photography Exhibition. He said: “In every religion, the protection of children is very important. The creator’s desire is to support children at every step, to guide them to the right path. “He called for collective efforts by all communities to address the plight of people in need of humanitarian assistance.
The photography exhibition is enriched with objects such as: clothing items, shoes, photographs taken by refugees and migrants with them as a memory inside of them which will never fade, but rather the opposite, will remain inside of them as an image which identifies their past all this realized under the special care of the curator of the exhibition Mr. Oltsen Gripshti who closed the ceremony with poetry created within this initiative of Caritas Albania.
For the loves and abandoned soul in the lands left behind,
to utopias and in pursuit of safety,
to the pain in their eyes,to the wounds in the soles of their feet,
burnt in the boundless deserts,
thirsty among the shores traversed,
to those who touched the bottom,
to their smiles,
and to those who have stopped at the edge of hope.
In fact, in the house of all of us, because the house of the Albanian belongs to the Friend and God.
*in collaboration with UNHCR in Albania