Europe

Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Give and take--distributing watermelon on Lesvos

 

Aside from the thick wall of heat glomming on to my body as I walk into the uncooled space of the camp kitchen where I am scheduled to spend the next four hours, the large mound of watermelon stacked in crumpled plastic crates on the floor grabs my attention first.

I thought I would try to stay within my comfort zone the first morning in the refugee camp. I volunteer for the job of food distribution, receive a knife and am told to start quartering the watermelons lengthwise. Who brings this watermelon here? Do they come every day? Are they from local farmers? How many should I cut? Nobody–of the handful of volunteers standing around finishing their coffees–knows. All I get, for sure, is that I need to split a few of the long quarters in half for the smaller families and individuals.

I take a hefty melon from the pile in the corner and set it on my cutting board. My hands sense a sort of magical energy tension at the point just before the knife-edge touches the watermelon, and it splits willingly. It cracks open with rough edges, creating an uneven topographical surface of ripe, red flesh on each half. Working with another volunteer, a young man from Berlin, we smile each time this happens, but otherwise, wordlessly fill a plastic crate, arranging the wedges so they will rise with reasonable stability just over the edges.

MEDITERRANEAN: My first working day in Pipka—the love letter

 

English lessons were slow getting started. Peggy walked around the camp by the cabins and tents to let interested refugees know the session would soon begin. Lunch finished late, but soon two young women showed up, Farsi-speakers, maybe sisters. 

Peggy had been teaching for a few days now. I was there to observe her technique. Soon a man joined us, possibly around thirty years old, Pakistani. He had a shy manner, and was hesitant to approach, but he emitted a kind of indefinable radiance. He asked me if I could help him with “deep” words. At first, I thought he wanted to talk philosophy, but, no, he wanted words that had to do with feelings, specifically words to do with love. 

“Love,” though was to simple a word for what he had in mind. And he wanted, as it turned out, full sentences:

“You are profoundly beautiful.”

“My heart is full of affection for you.”

“I adore you.” 

It became quickly clear to me that he wanted to compose a love letter. He had met a Pakistani-American woman here on Lesvos and been on a couple of dates.  Now he wanted to express how he felt about her: 

MEDITERRANEAN: No easy answers

 

It’s 6 a.m. in Iraklio. The hotel clerk has called a cab, and we are waiting with our luggage in the lobby. We’ve been three weeks here in Crete visiting family and now are joining CPT-Europe’s Mediterranean Project on the island of Lesvos. We don’t quite know what our role will be there or what tasks we will be called on to perform as volunteers.

The clerk wants to talk about the refugees. “Of course, we must help them,” he says. “It’s not their fault; it’s not the fault of the Greek people. But it’s killing us,” he says. He means economically. “Here in Crete, on this strip alone” – he points outside toward Leoforios Kalokairiou “– two hundred businesses have failed. Store after store, closed.” He had been working at a resort in Malia, usually the busiest place in Crete during the summer season, but the number of days he could get work was getting fewer and fewer. He had to come here to Iraklio where the tourism by native Greeks is more reliable.

Mediterranean: On watch

The waves crashed on the stony beach. Out in the water of the Aegean Sea, between the Island of Lesvos and the coast of Turkey, the lights of coast guard boats and an occasional fishing boat could be seen in the moonless night. Two of our team joined members of the Emergency Rescue Centre International (ERCI) team as they started their evening all-night vigil to watch for and assist with passengers in refugee boats if they arrive at this area of the island. 

Night-vision binoculars were on hand.  An orange tarp was removed from a stack of blankets, kept for the warmth of the volunteers.  Wooden pallets for seating had been set up around a mound of rocks, where the group would light a campfire during the colder months of the year. During the dryer months of the summer there are regulations against open fires.

The rhythmic sound of the waves gave a backdrop for meditating, and we had plenty of time for getting to know each other. Though some did nap during the early hours of the morning, several participants always remained awake and alert to respond if a boat came. Other clusters of ERCI workers were holding similar at a couple other locations around the island where boats might arrive from Turkey. 

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.