Europe

Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

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.

Prayers for Peacemakers, July 27, 2016 Europe

Prayers for Peacemakers, July 27, 2016    Europe

Pray for the refugees currently trapped on the Greek island of Chios.  They have waited four months for their asylum reviews in unsanitary conditions.  Pray also for the member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams-Europe team member who just found out that his cousin was among the refugees who died trying to reach Europe in a forest along the Turkish/Bulgarian border.  He had to communicate the news of the death to his family.

 

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: The children along the city walls of Chios

 

Syrian refugee children waiting to get the boat to Athens

We are a CPT team of three persons. We are walking along the city walls of the Greek island of Chios, with the border-polluted sea stretching before us. The refugees reside in tents, organised in two lines. Kids are playing. Nothing can make children stop playing. Even under the midday sun; even though the great powers of the world, through their agreements, prevent these families from moving on.  But they play. They run up to the top of garbage hills and then run down, laughing and shouting. “Kids!” my friend says, to show that he is delighted but not surprised.

The twelve-year-old Me walks on small paths up the hill, passing alongside landmines, walking over the skeletons of the Iraqi and Iranian soldiers who died here in 1980s. He jumps out of me. He does not even look back at me. He goes to the kids of Chios and starts playing with them. I look back and wait for him to come back, to jump back into this grown-up self.  He does not seem to care. My teammates tell me that we should move on. So I move on with them and leave the little Me behind.

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 22, 2016 Europe

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 22, 2016  Europe

Give thanks for members of the new CPT-Mediterranean Team, which has just finished its first week together on Lesvos, Greece.  Pray for ongoing encouragement in their work, as Western governments try to avoid taking responsibility for refugees fleeing unbearable conditions in their homelands.

*Epixel for Peacemakers  June 25, 2016  
 
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

CPT MEDITERRANEAN BLOG: Deep and violent connections


It’s a profound day today.

The celebration of Juneteenth (when Africans enslaved in the United States learned of their freedom, declared by the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier). 

The one-year anniversary of the massacre of the church at Mother Emanuel AME folks in Charleston, SC.

The one-week anniversary of the Pulse Orlando club shooting. 

It’s also Father’s Day, so blessings to the Dads out there…especially those redefining traditional masculinity and providing open-minded and gentle ways of nurturing children (or ideas!) into wholeness. 

Tomorrow continues the meaningful days (of course every day we’re alive it’s meaningful!) It’s solstice, and the middle of Ramadan. It only comes around in the summer every 33 years.  Given global weirding, this is a hot one! 

It’s also World Refugee Day. Being here, working with refugees…this day now means more to me than ever before.  I knew theoretically the difficulty of being a refugee: the bureaucracy of paperwork and sometimes arbitrariness of official decisions, long lines, inadequate resources, the fast friendships, the cramped camps, the waiting, oh the waiting. 

Our Christian Peacemaker Team is accompanying refugees in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. As Executive Director I have a chance to do a two-week team visit. I sat across the table from a man from Afghanistan yesterday. Neither he nor I are from Greece or speak Greek. I don’t speak Dari yet, and he just began the English classes offered to refugees. We don’t know each other’s names and yet we are deeply and violently connected. My village paid for his village to be bombed (through the US-led war in Afghanistan).

We kind of smile at each other to acknowledge a greeting, but neither of us are happy about the situation so we exchange a glance of agreement that there is no use pretending we are. I can hope that through our work he and I can feel that there is another way to connect as well, through nonviolent interaction. But if it ends there it is not enough, in a way. I want to exchange the real smile that comes after a day of joint action to bring change to global functioning. Tomorrow is World Refugee Day and we will do a public witness action that reminds the public that refugees are not invisible, and mourns the loss of over 1,600 people that have died in crossing by boat from Turkey to Greece. We will thank the Lesbians for being so welcoming to those who made it, and together with them brainstorm ways to insure safe passage for all and challenge EU and US and local policies that lead to so many people being frighteningly expelled from their homes. 

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 18, 2016

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 18, 2016

Give thanks for the decision that Christian Peacemaker Teams – Europe made to hold its convergence and public witness at the Eurovision song contest in Malmö, Sweden three years ago last week.  Out of that meeting arose its decision to accompany and partner with refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers and their allies on the Greek island of Lesvos.

*Epixel for Peacemakers May 22, 2016 Trinity Sunday
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts 
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5
 
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming  Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.