By Alexandra Patton
The Hazara community gathered with students and teachers in Bologna for a cultural event.
The strong scent of cilantro and onions fills the small kitchen in the Poggeschi Jesuit Center. Members of the Hazara community and students from the Italy Center work at the large table in the center of the room, chopping up ingredients and preparing a traditional Afghani meal for the Hazara cultural event. An estimated 60 people were expected to arrive at the event that night. Its goal was to allow members of the Bologna community “to show solidarity for the Hazara people” while also learning about their culture.
The event consisted of a traditional Hazara meal as well as a presentation by the coordinators of the event. This was followed by an open dialogue between the Hazara community in Bologna and the attendees of the event.
The Hazara are an ethnic group in Afghanistan who experienced persecution under the Taliban. One of the members of the Hazara community gave a passionate speech during the open dialogue, expressing “hope for Hazara equality” in the future and a discontinuation of persecution in Afghanistan.
Efforts are being made to improve the Hazara’s situation in Afghanistan, as Sean O’Neill, one of the speakers of the event, explained. Sean works in Afghanistan for Catholic Relief Services, specifically in schools. The purpose of these schools is to provide a degree program for the Hazara. This has proved more difficult given the recent increased influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The night began with lectures given by both Sean and members of the Hazara community centered around this struggle and the efforts to alleviate it. Concerns centering around racism and ethnic persecution were the central themes outlined in these lectures. A video was shown which discussed the Taliban’s activity in the Hazara’s homeland and the efforts to maintain schools and educate the Hazara population in Afghanistan despite that. This was followed by questions from those in attendance. Topics ranging from resistance in the Hazara community to American soldiers’ presence in Afghanistan were touched upon. This discourse was followed by a traditional Afghani meal and casual conversation over dinner between the attendees.
The event was coordinated by the Spring Hill College Italy Center and the Poggeschi Jesuit Center. Those in attendance included U.S. exchange students, University of Bologna teachers and students, and members of the Hazara community. The director of the SHC Italy Center said of the event, “no other study abroad center in Italy offers such unique experiences.”