Article by Diana Prisacariu
Schizophrenic, autistic or just terribly paranoid. These are some of the words uttered by the intellectuals present at the religious mass that opened the construction site for the new Faculty of Social Theology. The Orthodox leader Andrei Andreicu?, the bonhomme whose voice is so appropriate for telling children’s stories and whose vocabulary represents a great case study for Slavic influence on mediaeval Romanian language, celebrated this beautiful mass at no less than 35 degrees Celsius, another proof of his resistance…against Communism or merely pure sunshine. The metropolitan’s courage became even more admirable due to his keeping his backed turned for almost 2 hours to a colourful audience made of approximately 100 Roma and several tenths of Romanian and Hungarian students, professors, journalists and activists, who were peacefully holding banners and wondering if they had suddenly turned invisible or was it just the power of the religious celebration that kept the others from looking at them.
As the vice-mayor later stated, the masked bodyguards that prevented us from reaching the other side are a recent acquisition of the public municipality, aimed at protecting the legal forces from threats and attacks from the Roma. Their impassibility was, however, at least more amusing than that of the priests who, also dressed in black, represented the protected minority.
“What does theology mean?” a beautiful and beautifully dressed, clean and smart Roma girl asks me when holding banners together. She is 8 years old, so it’s probably not worth telling her bad things about the hypocrisy behind the Orthodox Church. But she has just lost her home, being thrown out from the house that she was living in together with her family on a -16 degrees Celsius/3.2 degrees Fahrenheit December day. She was moved on a hill right next to the city’s garbage dump, in a modular residence where 8 families share 4 rooms of 16 square meters each and a 6 meters bath. No heating, no warm water. Just stray dogs and tons of mud to reach the highway.
That’s when I decide to discuss more about God, about how people studying about God are supposed to be good people, to whom one could ask for support. Who, from anti-Semitic and racist, have turned into Church leaders that almost all Romanian intellectuals adore and who represent a favourite target for doing business, especially when public authorities, public property and students to Cluj make up a comfortable and profitable deal. Then I stop and start keeping these thoughts for myself, thoughts that bear the image of the phone company whose CSR I had once admired, and for whose R&D department in Cluj the ground was originally purified. It is only after the above-stated company gave up the idea and decided to only produce rather than innovate in Romania (a process that should have brought more capital than just cheap labour was postponed again) that the municipality decided to give this public ground to the much respected Orthodox Church.
Unreal as it may seem, we dare not scream, not even talk, while the mass pursues its century old trail. It is only when it ends that the silence of the sheets of paper is broken by the reactions of the protesters: some of us discuss with the Roma, some among ourselves about the incredible and we all agree on the incredible gesture of authorities, public and clerics, of having kept their faces back for such a long time. We all exclaim in awe when a car leaves the premises in haste, leaving a cloud of dust behind: it is the mayor, who has managed to avoid us in a particularly original manner. After having probably asked the priests to pray for his soul, he joined the opposite side of the crowd and, protected by the alerted policemen, he found his path far away from our comments and requests for humanity.
Despite the efforts that were made by several NGOs and CSOs, professors, students and activists to raise awareness on the situation of the eviction to the city’s garbage dump of citizens that legally resided in Cluj-Napoca, public authorities did not allow them to express their views in the meetings of the Local Council, presided by the mayor, nor did they respond to their invitation of visiting the new social housing they had prepared by the city’s dump. As for the Church representatives, their attitude is even smarter, the image of the old man who declares not having known about the ground being inhabited and his calm and sometimes incoherent discourse thus maintaining public adulation levels higher than ever.
This is the equation. The solution is still to be found.