Shalom Prize 2019 awarded to Father József Lankó from Hungary
The Human Rights Award of the Working Group Shalom for Justice and Peace at the Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt was awarded on 18 May 2019 to Father József Lankó for his commitment to the Beás minority.
Father Lankó has been working for the Beás minority in Alsószentmárton in southern Hungary for more than forty years. Like other Roma communities, they face exclusion and discrimination. The current government in Hungary is being criticised for using anti-Roma and anti-Gypsy rhetoric.
The priest has implemented numerous programmes to alleviate material hardship in the 21 villages that comprise his pastoral area. The educational work is a central concern for him and his helpers. The director of the Alsószentmárton kindergarten, Agnes Jovánovic, accompanied the winner. She is a member of the Beás community. It is unusual that the 100 children who attend this kindergarten are bilingual. In addition to their mother tongue, an ancient Romanian, they learn Hungarian and are therefore well prepared for school. In the so-called tanodas, which can be compared to a bound all-day school, the pupils receive targeted learning support. They also offer a varied leisure programme.
Laudator Christof Ludwig from the Caritas-Sankt Martin e.V. association in Witten, who has been associated with the project for over 25 years, described the career of Father Józsi, as everyone calls him. With a lot of patience and empathy he won the trust of the people. His actions were never from above. The leisure activities strengthened the self-esteem of the young people. Over the past 25 years, numerous exchange programmes between Witten and Alsószentmárton have brought children and young people together.
As Father Lankó explained in his presentation on the eve of the Shalom Award ceremony in Eichstätt City Hall and in front of pupils and teachers from the Montessori School in Eichstätt, the value of the family for the Beás is central. No one is ever left alone. The elderly, the sick and the people with disabilities live in the families. However, the material need is very great, the unemployment rate is almost eighty percent. Ninety meals a day are cooked in a soup kitchen and distributed to the needy in the villages.
In his acceptance speech, which Father József Lankó gave in German, he said:
„We are not alone. The people in the villages around Alsószentmárton have experienced that we are important.“
For him, the award is strength and hope. Shalom means justice and peace, but above all to pass on love.
The Ak’s patron Mayor Steppberger emphasized the importance of the Shalom Prize as one of the highest endowed human rights awards, which each year thematically focuses on a country or a region.
The chairwoman of the university council, Barbara Loos, who represented the president of the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, also emphasized the commitment of students and Eichstätt citizens to human rights work at AK Shalom. She pointed out that the international community can look back on seventy years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that the German Basic Law will soon be seventy years old, and that human dignity is also mentioned centrally in Hungary’s constitution. Nevertheless, minorities are excluded and discriminated against.
Gerhard Rott, head of the Department of the World Church, spoke on behalf of the diocese. He underlined the idealistic and financial support that the Shalom Prize received from the department.
Burkhard Haneke of Renovabis, a Catholic relief organization that has supported the project of Father József Lankó for 25 years, explained that the Beás minority living in Alsószentmárton was one of the losers of the fall of communism. The state enterprises, in which many worked, closed, and new jobs were hardly created. Out of solidarity with the work of Pastor Lankós, scholarship holders of the Collegium Orientale also came.
The Ensemble Divertissimo conducted by Alexander Koch played in the ceremony hall of the summer residence, which was filled to the brim with music.
At the closing service, which is traditionally celebrated at the Salesianum in Eichstätt, KHG priest Father Stefan Weig emphasized that for József Lankó, being with the people is the key.
The Shalom Prize is one of the highest endowed human rights prizes in Germany. The work is purely honorary. All donations go directly to the projects without deductions for administrative costs. Donations can still be made until September 2019.
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The Shalom Prize 2019 will be awarded to Father József Lankó from Hungary
The Shalom Working Group last week officially announced the 2019 prize project. Father József Lankó from Hungary will be honoured for his passionate and tireless commitment as a Pastor for the Roma community in Alsószentmárton. The award ceremony will take place on 18 May 2019 in the Sommerresidenz of the Catholic University in Eichstätt-Ingolstadt.
Alsószentmárton is a small village in the southwest of Hungary not far from the Croatian border, where about 1200 people live. The inhabitants belong to the Boyash minority, a subgroup of the Roma community. In Hungarian society, Roma are subject to constant discrimination: they do not have equal access to education and find it difficult to find work because companies prefer to hire Hungarians due to existing prejudices against Roma. In addition, Roma often pursue traditional occupations that have not been in demand since the fall of communism and the associated social transformation. In this way a negative spiral of exclusion, poverty and frequent alcoholism has developed, making it almost impossible to integrate Roma into Hungarian society.
József Lankó has set himself the task of breaking this vicious circle: the Hungarian pastor has lived as a pastor in Alsószentmárton for almost 40 years, runs a soup kitchen and is the only Hungarian to live at eye level with the Boyash. However, his activities go far beyond those of an ordinary pastor. In order to change the situation of the Roma in the long term, he is committed to improving the educational opportunities of children and young people. In so-called „Tanodas“ (open houses) the pupils receive targeted learning support in the form of afternoon care, which has already significantly reduced the high school drop-out rate in the village. In addition, a varied leisure programme is offered: Sports, music, theatre and holiday camps open up new perspectives for children and young people and strengthen their self-esteem without them having to give up their cultural identity.
We are pleased to be able to award József Lankó’s long-standing commitment against discrimination against minorities with the Shalom Prize 2019.