Arts and Hearts: Christian Cultural Centre challenges children and adults in Serbia
Milica loves to draw and paint. And at the UMMUS cultural centre in Kragujevac, Serbia, she is able to do just that.
The project supported by Blythswood Care is the brainchild of Pastor Dragisa Armus as he seeks to demonstrate the relevance of the gospel to every aspect of life in post-communist society.
Weekend art classes for six-year-olds is a small but significant part of the programme. Teacher Maja Mrdakovic reckons that art does not get the attention it deserves in state schools. “It’s important for the mental development of children,” she says. “We encourage them to work together and to share their ideas and experiences.
“Through art we introduce them to Christian themes and values.”
The UMMUS centre’s programme for all ages includes music, concerts and lectures. This spring an exhibition by photographer Zoran Milutinovic has provoked discussion on how local residents perceive the migrants who have been passing through Serbia and in many cases are now stranded there.
It’s an issue close to the heart of David Armus who has been managing Blythswood’s delivery of food aid at migrant reception centres in Presevo and elsewhere.
“Zoran chose to photograph refugees who did not agree to stay in the reception centres,” David says. “That way he was able to achieve direct contact with them and got much closer to their lives on the streets of Belgrade. He spent time with them and even invited some into his own apartment.”
The resulting black and white images had a profound impact on visitors to the exhibition. “One man told me he was against migration through our country,” David says. “But he found these images truly heart-breaking and said that they had changed his mind. Now he saw the migrants as people like ourselves who should be helped if they are in trouble.”
photo above: UMMUS describes itself as a cultural centre for artistic and moral development, Milica simply loves to paint
photos below: The work of photographer Zoran Milutinovic provoked serious discussion on how migrants are viewed in Serbia