Shalom Prize 2019

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.