Looking Skywards: Sharing their Passions and Building Trust, Kosovo Youth Come Together Under the Stars
It gets dark earlier and earlier as autumn settles into Kosovo, but at least one group is looking forward to more time under the night sky.
Taking turns huddling under a telescope in Novo Brdo/Novobërdë on a September evening, thirty young adults from different communities across Kosovo have come together to exchange their passion for the stars, meet fellow stargazers and learn about the latest developments in astronomy.
The group met for a two-day astronomy peace camp entitled “Under One Sky” - an initiative supported by the Youth, Peace and Security program of UNMIK, the United Youth Task Force, and developed in collaboration with the Astronomy Club of Kosova.
Kosovo youth prepare the telescope for a solar observation in Novo Brdo/Novobërdë
Visiting the youth group for a solar observation, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo Ms. Barrie Freeman expressed appreciation for the ways in which the group embodies UNMIK’s emphasis on trust building among members of Kosovo’s diverse communities, and encouraged the commitment of the group to create a community based on a celebration of the natural world. She also noted how important activities like these are in Kosovo, which has the youngest population in Europe.
DSRSG Freeman takes in the view at the “Under One Sky” camp
The United Youth Task Force, which comprises a network of young people from across Kosovo working together to solve common challenges, frequently puts together events that bring together youth from all Kosovo communities based on a foundation of shared interests and concerns in culture, art, sports, and lately – science and technology.
Kosovo youth take the lead
For Aulona Çaka (15), from Kaçanik/Kačanik, who co-organized the Astronomy Camp, the event was about so much more than constellations and planets.
“When we look skywards, we realize that Earth is our home in this endless cosmos. Borders vanish when we see how small we are in comparison with the Universe.”
Indeed, the significance of the “Under One Sky” team’s initiative to bring together youth from across Kosovo goes beyond their shared passion for astronomy. According to a recent study by the IOM (2018), over 70% of young K-Albanians and 72% of young K-Serbs have never interacted with their peers from the other community.
The Astronomy Camp won funding through UNMIK’s small grants competition – wherein youth from across Kosovo presented their ideas for inter-ethnic collaboration and received funding for the ideas to come to life. The winning teams are mentored by UNMIK’s Youth Adviser and peers from the United Youth Task Force network of young peacebuilders.
Iana Minochkina, Youth Adviser for UNMIK, leads the group through a presentation on the Youth, Peace and Security Programme
Other projects spearheaded by youth in Kosovo and awarded small grants include a multi-ethnic beekeeping camp “Bees 4 Peace”, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) week of workshops and experiments, a youth peace camp, and a bullying prevention initiative.
In Aulona’s case, the idea of her team to bring youth together to celebrate science and the natural world came to fruition as a two-day Astronomy Camp, with accommodation, food, equipment, and a reach learning and teambuilding program provided for participating students.
During the two-day event, that the participants went on a peace-hike to the Castle of NovoBrdo/Novobёrdё where they learned about the culture and history of the 13th century hub of trade and culture in the region.
The “Under One Sky” group gathers during the Castle of NovoBrdo/Novobёrdё peace hike
Linking past, present, and future through a new lens
One highlight for Iana Minochkina, The Youth Peace and Security Coordinator for UNMIK, was the lecture by Professor Sabit Gashi, one of the founders of the Pristina Observatory in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, who spoke about the development of astronomy in Kosovo and in the region since the 1970s. Professor Sabit emphasized how astronomy and other scientific movements brought together people of all ages and communities in their joint discovery of the wonders of the universe.
Today, just as then, youth are taking initiatives to build bridges based upon shared passions, crossing long-standing divides. As Suhel Ahmeti, Milan Dobrić and Pranvera Begolli from the “Under One Sky” team welcomed the participants with their slogan, “Indeed, all the boundaries vanish when we look skyward!”