Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

MEDITERRANEAN: From the womb in exile to the tomb in exile

I have seen Mela Qadir, the Muslim priest of my home village, leading many funerals. “God has taken back your soul. When we leave now you are going to try to rise up and go back to your home, but the stones above you are going to prevent your head from rising up and you will realize that you are dead,” he said to the deceased, with his voice of authority, his edgeless mustache, his ironed Kurdish suit and his elegantly tied turban.

Mela Qadir guided everyone who died in my home village in this way, at the confusing point between this earthly life and eternity. He told all of them that two angels will come, that the grave becomes like a beautiful garden where the dead person can enjoy him-or herself until judgment day–if the person was a righteous person. If not, the walls of the grave would come together and he would feel the suffering he or she had caused other people a thousand-fold.

The dead persons in my home village had names. They had life stories, known to the people who attended their funerals. On this occasion, they shared stories about the dead persons’ childhood, goodness, who they were as fathers or mothers, how good they were at their work and how funny they were.

EUROPE: Why “prioritizing” Syrian refugees is a bad idea


A refugee boat arrives on the shores of Lesvos at the same time as a 
FRONTEX dinghy.                                             Photo: Ramyar Hassani

Since 2011, the bloody war in Syria has displaced millions of civilians to neighbouring countries and EU member states. Meanwhile there are other countries whose post-war situations have made life miserable for very large parts of their populations.

Since more than a year ago, European politicians have talked about prioritizing the Syrian refugees. However, the very high numbers of  Syrian refugees are people who were unable to make it to Europe “legally” due to intentionally harsh Western policies barring their entry. Around eight million Syrians are internally displaced, while another 3.75 million have gone to neighbouring countries like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

MIGRATION REFLECTION: Not since World War II… so many people looking for HOME


Afghan refugees on Lesvos

I have been home three weeks and am now able to re-enter Winnipeg society. I no longer have to cocoon in my house, unable to face the huge grocery stores and my friends who ask me how I am.  Already I can go hours without even thinking of  the people I sat with in Iraqi Kurdistan. I am forgetting the heat and the sweat and the burning hot wind. I am forgetting the tears and pain of mothers sitting on the sidewalk begging with their eyes, families in unfinished houses asking for a refrigerator so their water can be cool enough to drink and people living in flappy tents that fall down in the blustery winds.   I am forgetting the father looking at his 21-year-old son who is thinking of paying money to a smuggler to try to get to a life worth living. I am forgetting the words, "What else can he do?"

But there are still hours when I remember. When I read news of seventy people dying in a smuggler's truck because no one would open the doors.  When I hear from my colleagues working on the island of Lesvos of ordinary people risking the life and breath of their children to get onto inflated boats trying to find a society who will embrace them and say welcome. 

MEDITERRANEAN: A call for emergency ferry transportation and better basic humanitarian assistance

We urge the EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to organise immediately emergency funding from European Union sources to help process and care for the hundreds of migrants and refugees who are arriving on the Aegean Islands each day.

This care would include 

Refugees queuing in front of a travel agency at 11 P.M.

1) A dedicated ferry to take only refugees & migrants from Mytilini to Athens not later than 17th August 2015. 

2) Improved co-ordination and provision of good quality tents, blankets, food and  drinking water within the grounds of the Moria reception centre, the Mytilini port area and the locally initiated Kara Tepe camp. 

Additional informational

On 13th August 2014, Christian Peacemaker Teams met and discussed with Mr. Spiros Galinos, the Major of Lesvos Island about the inadequate conditions of the registration and reception centre conditions and the difficulties of migrants and refugees wanting to leave the island. 

Knowing that the situation around the public holiday on the 15th August, would be difficult, the mayor requested 2 weeks ago that an additional ferry be made available. As of 12 noon on the 13 August 2015 he informed us he had still not received a positive response to his request. 

GREECE REFLECTION: Things can only get better

An Afghan man approaches me, asking politely if I am a doctor, and wants me to come and look at his daughter who has a stomach flu with fever for the fourth day. I explain to him that I am not a doctor, yet I try to remember whatever I know about stomach flu self help instructions: plenty of water, bananas, orange juice with bits…

Moving on some meters, another parent stops me, posing the same question, and I repeat the same answer. And then another one. And more. Moving another fives meters, a man approaches me and wants me to look at his daughter’s hands. It is an impetigo that has spread across both hands. It needs urgent antibiotic treatment. She is unable to move her fingers properly but she still gives me the most beautiful smile. Children…

We are in Kara Tepe, a camping area on the island of Lesvos where thousands of refugees wait for their documents to be processed so that they can continue their journey to Athens, and from there to continue their asylum process in other European countries.

There is no doctor in the camp, although thankfully we know that the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) will start operating here in the coming days. The municipality of Lesvos opened Kara Tepe in spring 2015 as a temporary holding place for about 1,000 persons – on the worst days there are over 3,500 persons.

With all the mess around her in the Kara Tepe refugee camping area she sits on a cardboard enjoying her
 potato chips.

GREECE REFLECTION: Each refugee is an individual

Too often, people speak about refugees as a unified, undifferentiated group.  CPT places great emphasis on undoing oppressions, an important part of which is recognising and addressing white privilege.  One aspect of white privilege is that people who are white are seen as individuals, while people who are not white are seen as representative of their race, or grouping.

While here, I have spoken to as many refugees as I can, and listened to their individual stories. Here are just a few of them.

 Achmed (not his real name), a 28-year-old teacher from Damascus, was arrested by the Syrian authorities and spent two months in jail, accused of procuring wives for fighters. While in prison he was tortured with beatings and with electricity. When we met him in Kara Tepe he showed us the marks. The torturers broke some of his bones and he has residual pain in his neck and shoulders. Yet he is looking forward to a better life in Germany. His wife is pregnant with twins, their first children, and will follow him once the babies are fit to travel. He thanked us warmly for our congratulations.

Prayers for Peacemakers, July 22, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, July 22, 2015

Give thanks that Medecins Sans Frontiers has begun providing bus transportation for arriving refugees on the island of Lesvos, so that they don't need to walk the 70 km distance from arrival points on the north coast to the registration centre in Mytiline.  Pray for CPT-Europe’s work with this summer on Lesvos among the people who have risked incredibly dangerous journeys to reach the island. More than 90 percent of the 77,000 people who have arrived on the Greek islands in the first six months of 2015 are fleeing countries experiencing war and conflict, principally Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

 *Epixel for Sunday, July 25, 2015 
Afghan refugees on the 70 km walk from the north coast of Lesvos towards Moria reception center.
You would confound the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge. Psalm 14:6
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

GREECE: The blistered feet of the refugees on Lesbos

Since the beginning of 2015 the number of asylum seekers trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean has continued to increase; the tiny island of Lesbos alone has received more than 25,000 over the past six months.

Last year when I was working on the island of Lesbos the number was high, but nothing compared to this year.  As a consequence, some new issues facing the refugees and places for dealing with the refugees have sprung up.  It is worth mentioning that many of the new issues were present last year, just on a smaller scale and some of the new ones are the result of bad old policies and inhumane laws.

One of the new temporary places for refugees that has sprung up is called Kara Tepe, an old driving training field on the outskirts of Mytilene. Mytilene is the capital of the north Aegean island of Lesbos, which is the only place where refugees who arrive at any spot on the shores of the island can be registered.

LONDON,UK: "One dead refugee is a tragedy; one thousand is a policy"

At noon on Friday, 15 May, at government buildings in London, participants in the annual Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Europe Convergence joined other international religious peace activists to draw attention to the deaths of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea and the culpability of the UK government in these deaths.

Video of CPT and Catholic worker Public Witness


Prayers for Peacemakers, April 29, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 29, 2015

Pray for the families of the migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past week trying to reach Europe.  Pray that Europe and the international community will make preserving human life their priority as they formulate immigration policies.


                                                                     *Epixel for Sunday, May 3, 2015
The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers 
and sisters also. 1 John 4:21
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  Revised Common Lectionary  readings.