Almaty (Unsplash/Alexander Serzhantov).

Kazakhstan: “What saves me and everything”

The new year in Almaty and other cities in the country began with protests over rising prices that resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency. More than two hundred people died and thousands injured. How can one face of all this?
Silvia Galbiati*

What does it mean for me to live the personal responsibility of the charism in the circumstances of life? The judgement that our friend Andrea Aziani wrote in a letter has become increasingly more true for me, especially since the protests at the beginning of the year in such a difficult and confusing time: "What is necessary is our vocational companionship. For whom? For ourselves, for friends, for enemies, and for the world."

Day after day I realize that, even in the most difficult and unforeseen situations, I can stand up, I can live and be in front of everything full of gratitude for having been conquered by God in a particular story, which began so many years ago and continues today. Filled with gratitude and longing. This being chosen is so definitive that it is the only thing I can start from in reality, not as an effort, but by nature. It is the continual realization that what saves me is what saves those around me: friends, enemies, and the whole world.

During the days of serious unrest in Almaty, a very simple fact struck me. Two Tajik men sell fruit and vegetables in a small store near the center. They work in absolutely precarious conditions to support their families in Tajikistan. Almost everything was closed during the days of the clashes and it was difficult to find food, medicines and diapers. With two of my colleagues we were trying to figure out how to buy things for the families we help; we were very worried because they had no supplies. We asked those two men if they could get some potatoes. I went by their place the next day and did not see any potatoes; the people waiting in line told me that they were out of them but one of the guys in the store called me aside because he had been saving them for me. I was struck.

Lost in thought, I paid and did not take the change. When he realized, he called me back to give me the money. I had images of the violence I had seen that morning whilst walking around the city, near the center in my eyes: stores, supermarkets and pharmacies destroyed and robbed, traffic lights knocked down, cars and buildings burned. With those images in my eyes, the attention of those men, their not taking advantage of the situation, their attempt to remain human in such absurd circumstances, struck me so much. And it gave me great peace. Amazed, I said to myself: look at what the simple relationship with them over the years has led to, look at the good that I find in myself, how it affects me. Justice is not born from revolutions, but from a goodness that impacts everything and everyone. This small fact changed those days, which were not full of anxiety about not being able to respond to all the needs, but full of saying yes, doing everything possible and asking for help from the One who can do everything and from friends invested like me by the same love that everyone seeks, everyone desires. My task is not to change the world, to make justice prevail, but to live what I have encountered and, thus, to face the reality that is given to me. This, in a design that is greater than my own, in time builds peace and justice, and brings change for the good.

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Even when the situation calmed down a bit, people were still very scared. There continued to be disorder in the streets and military checkpoints, with schools closed. But our people wanted us to reopen the Center (for disabled children) as soon as possible, as if to start over in the midst of an unstable and frightening situation. They needed this place, to see us, to be with us. I cannot give those I encounter anything less than what conquers and saves me. How? By living it more and more, and by doing what I have to do, responding to the particular reality that God chooses for me.

*Director of Masp, an NGO affiliated with Avsi that works in the socio-educational sphere.