Croatia: Ana Raffai

Every person is able to work for freedom. In each of us there is great potential – a resource for a better future. The beginning and fundamental question of change is: What can I do for freedom?

— Ana Raffai

Ana Raffai, a Roman Catholic Croatian theologian, has been training and mentoring over 500 peace activists on nonviolence and peace mediation over the last ten years. Together with her husband, she has designed and led various workshops for the Center for Peace Studies. Some of their trainees are now trainers in peace education themselves. She also works with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Rand in peace education for different faith groups. Recently, she has become more involved with NGOs that are active in protest and training for protest.

Ana Raffai encountered the word "peacemaking" back at the beginning of the war in Croatia. Looking back to her years of study, she does not think she demonstrated the expected characteristics of a peacemaker. On her right hand, she has a scar – an evidence of her boldness but also aggressiveness in the battle for her rights: she received it in a fight with her younger brother who was at primary school while she was in her second year studying Germanic and Romance languages. He had taken something from her room and she had chased him around the apartment. When he tried to save his skin by locking himself in the bathroom, she hit the glass in the door and smashed it. Ana's next encounter with peacemaking was before the war. Her husband, a conscientious objector, said, “I am a pacifist.” Later, Ana was glad that he turned his back on weapons because at that time he was important to their small family. In 1990, she gave birth to a daughter, and then in 1991, to a son. It bothered her at that time when the war was bubbling away that there was no space for other priorities. Anyone opposed to current ideas was branded negatively. During this time, a priest found a family with whom her husband could stay, as at that time there was no legal framework for conscientious objection. In 1992, thanks to the priest, Ana took part in the Hildegard Goss-Mayr seminar in Zagreb where they worked on the question of peacemaking, faith, and how to overcome violence. It was not easy. Not until she completed an advanced training course for service in peace in 1995, did she connect with the people and the peace issues and began to think differently, subsequently changing the direction of her life. Towards the end of this course in Germany, organized by a group called Ecumenical Service, she decided to change her first calling as a high school teacher of German to that of peace worker.

Center for Peace Studies Rand European Church and Peace Network