I have been working as a chaplaincy in the women ?s prison in Berlin for more than a year. In the beginning it was a very strange world with big walls, loud noise of opening and closing big doors. I was afraid to enter the prison cells.
The reason behind starting a ministry in the prison was to meet those who live at the absolute margin of society. There is a growing number of Sinti or Roma women from Eastern Europe who are discriminated in the other parts of Europe. Many of them committed robbery in organized groups. Communication with them is not easy but I sense, that many of them appreciate my presence there. Every second Sunday, when we celebrate the Liturgy of the Word, they express their faith, lighting a candle or kissing the icons of Jesus and Mary.
When women talk to me about their lives, their stories are alike: they suffered violence, rape, lack of care since their childhood. Violence and abuse continues in their life as adults. Statistics say, 80 % of those who become delinquents have been victims before. Many of hem drown their pain in drugs. They enter a vicious circle of consuming drugs and drug related crimes. Some want to get cigarettes from me, the only “drug” which is allowed in prison. Others are grateful to find somebody to talk to. Talking with me in prison is governed by professional secrecy. My own faith-experience in difficult moments helps me to confirm “you are not alone in your suffering.” I see as my service there, offering an empathic and open ear, to listen to their stories, to show my interest in them, to encourage and raise hope, that another life is possible.
Annette Fleischhauer, SSpS – Germany