Europe

Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

GREECE: Refugees' lives should not depend on miracles

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On 29 August 2014, I was sitting in the office  and busy with some daily task like email.  Usually in the early afternoon there is not too much to dooutside.  Nevertheless, incidents can happen at any time and part of the reason we are here on Lesvos is to be prepared to respond whenever we receive a call.  I got a phone call that a migrants’ boat had been turned over the night before, and one of the migrants was missing.

Migrants’ boats leave from the Turkish side of the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands almost every night after midnight.  The smugglers use small flimsy plastic boats for this kind of trip.  If there is a lot of wind and the weather is not friendly, incidents are more likely to happen and migrants drown or float on the water for hours until they get rescued.

“It was around 1:00 a.m. that we got on board and left the Turkish side; I do not remember exactly when the boat went upside-down but it was not a long time after we left, maybe half an hour,” one of the survivors, an Afghan man, told me as tears rolled down his face.  Sometimes migrants relive the tragic scenes that happen during their journey to Europe for many years.

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Treating migrants like dogs

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Pipka self-organised reception camp

On a sunny afternoon while tourists were enjoying a swim in the sea, the migrants—most from Afghanistan—were sitting in groups waiting for the police car. Women were sitting together and men chatting with each other.  Almost all of the conversations came back to the registration and asylum procedure, the other European countries who might take them in, and similar issues. Some of the kids were running around and some had no energy because they got sick either on the way to Greece or after their arrival. 

Usually the police car comes in the late afternoon to Pikpa—the open camp organized by local volunteers for migrants in Mytilene, Lesbos—to transfer some migrants to Moria First Reception Center. Most of the time, people are waiting in Pikpa for several days to be transferred. 

GREECE: Letter of Protest against inhumane treatment of refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos

in:

Dear Madams and Sirs,

Moria Reception Centre

We witnessed recently how refugees were exposed after their arrival on the island of Lesbos by an inhumane treatment by the Greek coast guard.  With this letter, we are protesting against this approach.

On Wednesday, 06th of August 2014, we planned, as part of our summer camp on the island of Lesvos [supported by] Youth Without Borders and Welcome-to-Europe (two anti-racist solidarity networks) to celebrate a party with and for refugees and migrants.  We chose as the place the Pipka, an empty children’s camp, which had been converted by activists from Lesvos with the consent of the mayor to a welcome-center for providing the newly arrived refugees with a roof over their heads, their first legal information and food.  On the same day, refugees [traveling] from Turkey had arrived and spent the time waiting to be registered by the Greek authorities in Pipka.  Finally, a Coast Guard bus arrived and about 35 of the refugees were to be picked up.

These people, who had crossed the night before the sea between Turkey and the island of Lesvos—risking their lives in a small crowded boat—deserve humane treatment like anyone else.  They are not guilty of any crime.  The only "crime that they have committed” is to have fled from their countries by war, violence, and hunger.  The inhumane nature with which the Greek coast guard treated the refugees is the occasion of this letter.

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 20, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 20, 2014

Pray for migrant and refugee children who come to Greece without their parents.  Even if they have a family member with them, the authorities separate them if that family member is not a parent.  Last week, volunteers working on the Mediterranean Project that CPT Europe supports spoke with a twelve to thirteen year old Afghan boy who was crying because the authorities were going to hold him for a longer period by himself in the Moria Detention Center, even though he had been traveling with an aunt. 

Epixel* for Sunday, August 24, 2014
Moria Detention Centre on Island of Lesvos, Greece

When she opened it, she saw the child.  He was crying, and she took pity on him, "This must be
 one of the Hebrews' children," she said. 
Exodus 2:6

*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.




EUROPE: Decision to open summer project in Greece arises out of fourth European Convergence

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A European Convergence tradition: pointing at the camera

European Convergences are special events, because we are spread out so thinly across political borders, have many different mother languages—English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Italian, Czech, Persian etc—and it’s important for us to hear each other’s stories and make plans for our communal witness. For this fourth convergence 23-27 April 2014, we met in the Dutch town of Aalsmeer, next door to the international Amsterdam airport.

This convergence was especially significant, because we decided it was time for us to act together against injustice at our own doorstep.  European governments are halting on land and sea the constant stream of refugees from the Middle East and Africa in contravention of the right of endangered persons to seek asylum.  The result is drownings, unjust deportations, long prison sentences and—lurking behind it all—an oppressive racism.

At the convergence, we heard the reports of two fact-finding missions to the Greek island of Lesbos, a mere ten km (six miles) from the Turkish coast. A local Orthodox monastery and several human rights groups described their work with these refugees, who are often washed up on shore in damp, salty clothes.  Those refugees who are not retained in detention are left to suffer at the hands of right-wing youths and indiscriminate police violence in cities like Athens.

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 4, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 4, 2014

 Pray for those participating in the refugee-led Freedom March to Brussels, a protest against the repressive and racist European migration regime.

 *Epixel for Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014
 
 "And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes,
Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia
and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both
Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--in our own languages we hear them speaking
about God's deeds of power?" Acts 2:8-11
 Photo Johann Stemmler
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 23, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 23, 2014

Pray for those attending CPT’s European Convergence this weekend in Aalsmeer, Netherlands and those participating in the solidarity witness with refugees and asylum-seekers at the Border Prison in Schiphol, Netherlands.  Ask that creative new strategies arise out of the gathering that will help CPT-Europe address the life and death issues of immigration at Europe’s borders.


Epixel* for 27 April 2014



Photo taken by CPT-Europe delegation of memorial
to refugees who died trying to reach Greek island
of Lesbos.

 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
Psalm 16:1


*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to
and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's
RevisedCommon Lectionary readings.

GREECE: The priest and the fisherman—a report from the CPT-Europe's Borderlands delegation

On Thursday morning our boat arrived on the island of Lesbos, where one can see can Turkey on the other side of the straits.




Papa Stratis

We drove up to the village of Kalloni (central Lesbos) to meet with Father Stratis, a Greek Orthodox priest who has been helping refugees for ten years and his assistant, George.  They arrive in the village soaking wet and exhausted, often having walked many hours.  Greek citizens face jail time if they pick up the migrants (similar to U.S. citizens at the border with Mexico).  If they know their way, it is a ten-hour walk from the beach to Kalloni.  If they do not know the way, it may take days.  George told us the water and the walking usually destroys their shoes.  The balcony of Father Stratis’s church is filled with donations of clothes that he and three volunteers sort and process for handing out.

While they have sufficient resources right now for their ministry, their biggest struggle is with morale.  The townspeople often complain that people involved with their ministry are helping refugees when they should be focused on helping Greeks who have been hurt by the economic crisis.  The fascist Golden Dawn movement, while not strong on Lesbos generally, is toxically eating away at the minds of young people, making racism appear acceptable.  George told us some of the young people see the Golden Dawn violence against refugees as cool, like the violence of Hollywood movies.

We were deeply touched by the witness of Father Stratis and George.

Friday afternoon, we visited the memorial place in Thermi with some members of the “Welcome to Europe” Network.  Several migrants lost their lives on the sea just trying to reach the nearest European border they could see from Turkey.  Twenty-one Afghan migrants sank close by just a few days before Christmas of 2013.

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS: CPTers arrested at The Hague Nuclear Security summit—report by Maarten van der Werf

On 24 March 2014, CPTer Maarten van der Werf, along with Cocky de Graaf and Jet Visser, who had participated in CPT delegations to Palestine, were part of an effort by Dutch peace organizations and the Amsterdam Catholic Worker to hand-deliver a message to world leaders attending the nuclear summit at The Hague.  The message, according to van der Werf, was essentially this: “The commitment to nuclear disarmament is a better way to achieve nuclear security than enhancing the protection of present nuclear installations.”… Van der Werf wrote later of the experience,

We were arrested after diverting from the compulsory path to a field where we were allowed to demonstrate.  We, however, were not demonstrating, we were going to hand deliver a letter to the world leaders!  After 150 meters, we were met by an overpowering crowd of regular police and military police.  An estimated sixty participants were arrested.  We received fines or [orders to appear in court.]

I sat the full six hours [the maximum allowed] in a cell of one by two meters without any windows or outside light coming in.  It was an experience of complete loss of control over my situation.  It was very boring as well, so [it was a good time to reflect and I had some of the following thoughts]:

Our experience and the topic of the summit are all about security.  Security and overreaction have to do with fear.

We were mostly people over sixty who also participated in the actions against cruise missiles beginning in the 1980s.  B-61 bombs are still here and will be modernized (the nuclear part as well as new tailpieces to make them GPS guided bombs).  Business for Boeing!

The summit was about terrorists.  Can we trust ourselves with a nuclear arsenal?  Are we sure we are not going to use it?  If we decide not to use them, threatening is without substance, and we had better make them into bicycles.

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 19, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 19, 2014

Pray for the upcoming CPT Europe delegation in April, which will focus on the violence and injustice refugees and migrants face on Europe’s outer borders.  Pray also for the families of the seven migrants who drowned last night when the boat they were sailing on from Turkey sank in the Aegean Sea.