Finding the Truth in Austria

April 19, 2018

Finn* und Naomi*, workers at Building Bridges in Linz and Traun, give us insight into their experiences and encounters with migrants.


…about the Bible and Jesus

Ahmed* talks the whole time about the fact that he wants to know more about the Bible and Jesus. His quest for truth drives him. So, I bought him a Bible in Persian/German language. This way he can read the Bible, and learn German at the same time. Ahmed received this gift with gratitude. But there is one problem: In the asylum seekers' home he lives, there are many devouted Muslims. He would have to hide the Bible – nobody there must know about it. So, I gave him a shopping bag. How can it be that people in Austria must smuggle bibles out of fear of discrimination and threat of murder?

…about right behavior

Mahmut* is still under age, has been given asylum, and his German is outstanding. We are riding the bus together. Just before the bus is leaving, some Afghans enter. In the front, there is a little dispute among them. Finally, the young Afghanis push each other towards the back of the bus, with lots of swearing. Mahmut is really upset about these teenagers: "These people have no respect. They come into a foreign country – so, they should behave properly. These guys are ruining my reputation.” I can really sympathize with him. He speaks highly of his parents, and continues: his father dead, his mother dead and one brother dead. His story touches me, and yet I do not really comprehend. I myself have never experienced so much pain, not even a little bit. As we are getting off the bus, the scenario from before is recurring – a little fight starts but calms down quickly. Mahmud is deeply ashamed about it.

… about wearing make-up…

„Do you use make-up?“ Twelve-year old Fatima* is curious. I know that she had been asking all the other workers, and now it is apparently my turn. “No, I don’t wear make-up.“ "Why not?“ "Because I don’t like it.“ Suddenly I remember that the girl who is sitting on the other side puts on lots of make-up and so, quickly I add: “Actually, I like it when other people wear it, but not for myself.” “But you have to put on make-up to find a husband and get married!”  Being an example, showing that a woman can think of more than men and make-up is not that easy.

...and whistling

Once Samira* (first grade) told me very earnestly, that whistling calls the devil. To do her a favor I stopped whistling but tried to explain that this is superstition. At the same time, we were playing with modeling clay and she started to form a devil. “I think, this devil looks funny.“  I find it very interesting, and rather illogical, that whistling should be dangerous, but a clay devil is perfectly okay.

…about hope

I met Meseret* from Egypt at the House of Hope, a meeting place for immigrants. She has been here for two years, but has not yet been granted asylum so lives in an asylum seekers' home. As she told me about her story, I admired her: She has no family here, no real friends, no home, no work, no money – and no prospects. But Jesus is family, friend and home for her. Jesus is her provision in the present, and her perspective for the future. “I have no counselor,” she explained. “Jesus is my counselor.“ It was such a radical illustration of trust.

*names changed