Europe

Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

Mediterranean: On Borders, Cooks, and Farmers

 

Massom* is young–I’d guess about 30, likely a bit younger. He’s one of the refugees who like to interact with the Greek organizers and the ever-changing group of international volunteers, practicing his English and helping out around the camp. This is a self-organized camp for some of the most vulnerable refugees who have arrived at the island of Lesvos, and Massom interacts with others here in ways that, for a variety of valid reasons, not many others are as apt to do. He’s there with a dustpan if he sees you sweeping. He helps to unload the deliveries of produce from area farmers into the room where we organize daily distributions. He’s all about making tea for anyone who wants it, anytime—his excuse to come and go often from the kitchen. He frequently succumbs, with great compassion, to the demands of little Myriam, a curly-headed toddler essentially on her own and dependent on the kindness of fellow residents and volunteers for the attention her mother—who suffers from severe depression—is unable to provide with much regularity. Massom enjoys staying close to the food scene, many times a week serving our communal lunch.

MEDITERRANEAN: Forty-four years in prison for teenage refugee caught in smuggling web


He bent his head down momentarily and then raised it to brace himself for the verdict and the sentence. “Guilty.”

“Forty-four years in prison,” a staggering reality for a teenage refugee, who thought he would be released because of his age and background. All his dreams and hopes for his life, wiped away at the stroke of the judge’s pen. His only hope now is in the appeals process, which often results in greatly reducing the sentence.

We were stunned.  After visiting him in the jail the day before the trial, and hearing the agonizing story of his family fleeing death threats in their home country, I felt a deep pain and grief.

His crime: human smuggling. He had driven the small dinghy boat transporting forty other refugees from Turkey to Lesvos, Greece in order to pay for his family’s passage and was caught by the Greek coast guards.

MEDITERRANEAN: What the authorities don’t want you to see in Moria refugee camp

 

“You come go. Come, go. I Syrian Kurdish. Moria, no good. I, Germany. I love you Germany! Munich. Berlin. Dortmund.”

This was the rap from a thin energetic man who joined us as we walked along the fence outside the Moria refugee camp. Four members of the team and two volunteers from Pikpa were there for an impromptu look around. The young man indicated with a gesture that I should put away the camera for now, that he had a better location to shoot from. He also let us know the police might stop us if they saw us shooting pictures.

We had just passed the food carts and makeshift cantinas outside the camp that serve the residents who have fulfilled their initial twenty-five-day mandatory detention and vetting, and who are now free to come and go in the daytime through the gate. Most have no other place to go, and not enough money if they could. They cannot, without papers, rent cars or apartments, or stay in hotels on the island. It is illegal to give them a ride.

MEDITERRANEAN: Remembering Aylan Kurdi (Interrupted) at Pikpa

 

The light was fading and the possibility of everyone heading down to the small harbor below Pikpa seemed to fade as well. Strong winds and high waves had been the order of the day and had not subsided into the evening. The organizers were considering whether the action planned for the beach might not be better held in the camp. The event was to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year old Syrian boy washed up on the shores of Bodrun, Turkey.   His image had shocked the world and brought home the tragedy of the refugee crisis in Europe and the Mideast.

As residents and volunteers milled around waiting for the balloons and votive candles, two men under the pavilion suddenly jumped up and ran behind the kitchen building. More men and then families began moving that way also. The younger men and women had been playing soccer on the concrete basketball court behind the fence and the ball had sailed over into the tennis courts owned by the adjacent private club. Now there was a confrontation between the club members, who refused to return the ball, and Pikpa.

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Train with CPT--Join CPT’s Peacemaker Corps

CPTnet
9 September 2016
CPT INTERNATIONAL: Train with CPT--Join CPT’s Peacemaker Corps 

CPT trainees and trainers in Europe congratulate
 Efi Latsoudi for winning 2016 Nansen Refugee Award

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is currently accepting applications for its Peacemaker Corps.  Join us in building partnerships to transform violence and oppression!  

Applicants must be 21 years of age or older and have participated in, or plan to participate in, a short-term CPT Delegation or internship.  Qualified applicants may be invited to participate in CPT’s intensive, month-long training from 5 January – 5 February 2017 in Colombia, South America where membership in the Peacemaker Corps is discerned.  Trained Peacemaker Corps members are eligible to apply for open positions on CPT teams.  The primary language for the Colombia training will be Spanish with English interpretation.  

CPT builds partnerships to transform violence and oppression in situations of lethal conflict around the world.  We are committed to work and relationships that: 1) honor and reflect the presence of faith and spirituality, 2) strengthen grassroots initiatives, 3) transform structures of domination and oppression, and 4) embody creative nonviolence and liberating love. 

CPT understands violence to be rooted in systemic structures of oppression.  We are committed to undoing oppressions within our own lives and in the policies and practices of our organization.  

CPT is a Christian-identified organization with multi-faith/spiritually diverse membership.  We seek individuals who are capable, responsible and rooted in faith/spirituality to work for peace as members of violence-reduction teams trained in the disciplines of nonviolence.  We are committed to building a Peacemaker Corps that reflects the rich diversity of the human family in ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender identity, language, national origin, race and sexual orientation. 

APPLICATION DEADLINE: 7 October 2016; direct any questions and send complete application to personnel@cpt.org.

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 7, 2016 Europe

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 7, 2016   Europe

Give thanks for the people currently undergoing training for Christian Peacemaker Teams in Europe.  Pray for their endurance, good humour, energy and attentiveness. Pray that harmonious relationships and strength for the work to come arise from this month.

*Epixel for Peacemakers  September 11, 2016 
CPT trainees meet with CPT Europe folks on the edge of Tempelhof’s radical community garden in Berlin
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Being the sidekick


This year seems to be a quiet one in Pikpa. No “masses of refugees flooding” the island of Lesbos, no extra ferries to bring them to Athens, no more riots in the humiliating, overcrowded and dignity-depriving camp of Moria. Instead, there’s a big colorful painting on the main building of Pikpa, an organized schedule for volunteers and voluntourists. Women do their daily washing; kids and men help with the gardening and the lifeguards run a swimming program called “reconciliation with the sea.”

So what else is there to do for an organization like CPT you ask? This question, along with the admiration I receive from some for being “brave” to go into crisis and conflict regions leads me to think that I have some explaining to do.

MEDITERRANEAN: The Space Within the Aegean Tectonic Plate

Our civilization is at war with spaces that are not definable or determinable between the poles of dichotomies. It is a war against what we cannot control, against that which flows and moves at its own speed and space. We take all the spaces of the margins and sacrifice them for the sake of our GLOBAL CITY. The civilized space is a fenced space 

The earth is one entire space and does not have any borders. There is nothing in the Aegean Sea that indicates where Europe begins and Asia ends. Both the Turkish city of Ayvalik and the Greek city of Mytilene are parts of the same Aegean tectonic plate. For most of history, Lesbos and Ayvalik have been parts of the same context and political unit. Now one of them is outside of the European fence and the other one is within. The Aegean Sea can be understood as the space between two separate worlds, two continents and two religions, as the space between peace and war, between good and evil and so on. In this artificial space, hundreds of people are being brutally murdered by the creators and defenders of this fence. 

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Refugee--the human face of God

When I arrived in Mytilene International Airport Lesvos Greece on 10 July, the city center and the entire island of Lesvos were not new for me. Similarities between what could be considered a Philippine tourist destination spot and the culture of Lesvos can be noticed through the architecture, scenery, weather, urban planning, stony seabed and beautiful mountains. In short, Lesvos is a holiday paradise. The street acts as such: crazy lorry drivers, ending lanes, racing cars and reasonably easy public transport—it felt like home to me. 

However, my main reason for visiting the island was to assist in the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams Mediterranean project (CPT). Since the war in Syria and Iraq, Greece—and specifically Lesvos—has been the frontline of the refugee crises. Lesvos and the Aegean Sea coast near Turkey are the main focal points for the massive wave of refugees from different countries (Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, etc.) entering the EU. After the EU-Turkey deal (March 20) everything has changed. Presently, many describe Lesvos as two worlds colliding: where holiday paradise and refugee crisis converge. 


MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Hug Me


“Hug me” read the embroidered words on the teddy bear’s cap. 

Walking along the harbor of Mytilini, working your way past the shops and cafes found along the water’s edge, you can look out and see Turkey’s coast rising from the Aegean, seemingly only a stone’s throw away. If you turn your back on the amazing scenery and head into town and up the hill, you will find yourself passing from the commercial downtown to the mansions and town houses of residential Mytilini. 

Continuing on, winding your way through and climbing the hill, you leave that behind as well. That wasn’t where you would find the teddy with “Hug me” written on its cap anyway. You find yourself surrounded by large apartment buildings, somewhat rundown high rises, and simple shops owned by people looking to scrounge a living off of serving the families that inhabit these communities. 

Turning around at the top and looking back towards Turkey, you can see how incredibly close the two countries truly are. The journey can be made in a couple of hours in as simple a boat as a little rubber dingy. But the view is not the purpose of the climb up the hill, and you feel yourself getting nearer, hearing the Teddy’s call: “Hug me.”

Returning to your quest, you enter the cemetery. In German, the word is “Friedhof,” literally translating to “place of peace.” Once you talk your way past the grayard keeper, it truly is a peaceful location. Trees grant shade as you walk along the rows of pristine marble monoliths for the dead. As you progress, the trees grow fewer and further apart. The graves here are not so ornate. Much like in the town, you continue forward and find yourself among dilapidated graves bearing the wind-worn names of the dead. If you look carefully, you can see it: a seemingly discarded teddy bear, smudged and dirty, lying on a little mound of earth, simply asking to be hugged. 

Only when you leave the last of the marble graves behind can you see them: thirty or forty mounds, all pointing east, pointing to Mecca. These graves never bore names—simply genders, presumed ages, and dates the bodies washed ashore.  Teddy, blown from his seat upon one of the smaller mounds by the wind, is there too, right next to a stuffed caterpillar with a paradoxical smile frozen on its face.  “Hug me” not yet visible, you gather them up, placing them back nearer to their rightful owner, a young child who will never hug or be hugged again.