Europe

Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

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.

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: Treasure in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island

Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account.  Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets.  We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account. 

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.)  That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe.  In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable. 

EUROPE: The Wealth Gap and its consequences on asylum seekers’ fates

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 Refugees forced to sleep in the port of 
Mytilene on Lesvos, Greece

The consequences of the wealth gap in the world of the migrant is most stark when we hear the news of those migrants who have drowned in the sea, stifled to death in the container lorries, or who are raped while trekking through remote areas, tortured in the desert or even killed by the smugglers.

To avoid the above options, migrants who have the money can pay for much safer ways of entering countries illegally, or depositing an incredible amount of money to apply for legal immigration.  However, some asylum seekers must cross borders illegally at least once.

Some asylum seekers who receive asylum in a neighboring country after lodging an application have to wait a few years to be transferred to the third safe country.  People from this group may get stuck in the neighboring country like Turkey until they can pay off high resident fees.

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 6, 2014

in:

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 6, 2014 

Give thanks for the work of CPT Mediterranean, which recently completed its summer presence on the Greek Island of Lesvos.  Participants in the Mediterranean project made migrants and refugees feel welcome and advocated for more humane European Union immigration policies.

               Epixel* for Sunday November 9, 2014
                                          Party to celebrate time in Lesvos
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness
like an everflowing stream.  Amos 5:24
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from
the upcoming Sunday's 
 
Revised  Common Lectionary  readings.

EUROPE: Migrants on their journey--dilemmas and possible solutions

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On a daily basis, hundreds of migrants try to get into Europe through different routes-- mainly via smugglers.  Most of the migrants are struggling to find either a safe life without persecution or have better standards of life to support their families at home.  The routes and the facilitators of the journey that they choose are the least safe options ever to exist.

Often the suggested solution focuses on ways to block the smugglers’ routes.  European authorities should identify and crack down on smugglers’ networks.  However, the story is not going to end as long as migrants face onerous restrictions for getting into Europe.

People are trying the illegal routes because they mostly have no legal way to get in.  As a result, the migrants become victims of crimes like torture and raping meted out by smugglers and tragedies like drowning in the sea on the way. 

The migrant population is divided into two different main groups: economic migrants and asylum seekers.  Economic migrants leave their home countries to work and support their families at home like many Greeks in the other European countries at the moment.  The asylum seekers are the ones who are running away from wars, conflict zones, persecution, torture, and other serious threats forcing them to seek a safer life, usually in the West.

Obviously, the asylum seekers are supposed to get benefits that economic migrants do not.  However, it is not easy to differentiate between asylum seekers and economic migrants because almost everybody who gets into Europe lodges an asylum application, because it is the only chance to get a legal status.  On the other hand, it has become much more difficult for the real asylum seekers to prove their stories.

All over the world, we find westerners working or living in another country merely because of their curiosity to explore the world.  The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasizes that everyone has the right to move freely, leave any country and return.  So far, it has been enforced for the citizens of western countries and the eastern families with money, not equally for everyone. 

MEDITERRANEAN: Waiting for justice

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Rabi’e, handcuffed on the wheelchair-stretcher
 next to the ambulance.
  

 Photo: © 2014 Ramyar Hassani, CPT Mediterranean 

Standing in solidarity with refugees is often fulfilling.  Here on the Greek island of Lesbos these people, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, have escaped the threat of bombs, abduction, and hunger.  Usually, it feels really good accompanying them.  Usually.

But Monday was different.  We observed the trial of the Syrian boy, Rabi’e, who turned eighteen while in prison.  The coast guard arrested him, claiming that he was responsible for smuggling twenty-two people in a boat into Greek waters and for attempting to sink that same boat so that they would be rescued. 

The case was delayed from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the translator did not show up, and another (poor) translator was appointed.

Because the trial took place in juvenile court, we were not permitted to attend the proceedings.  We waited with others in front of the glass doorsand watched the goings-on inside.  We learned later that the coast guard identified Rabi’e as the one who tore up a piece of paper in the boat with instructions on what to do in Europe and threw it in the water.  Six months after the fact, in the middle of night and at sea, they said could accurately identify him.  They said they retrieved the paper from the water and read it.  But the couldn’t produce this evidence in court, because seawater had damaged it irretrievably.