Europe

Christian Peacemaker Teams activities in Europe.

MEDITERRANEAN: Writings on the wall

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In one of the events that I participated in on the Greek island of Lesvos, I had the chance to see many writings migrants made to hang on the walls of the welcome center in Pipka. A piece of paper on the wall may not be a detailed story but what I saw delivered their pain. Here are some written by migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Sudan and other war-torn countries:

A handmade poster by a Syrian refugee

Prayers for Peacemakers September 25, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers September 25, 2014

Pray for the refugees and migrants caught up in the Greek court system, where they do not receive even the semblance of a fair hearing.

Epixel* for Sunday, September 28, 2014
Court in Mytilene, Lesvos
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any 
sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,  
make my joy complete: be of 
the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 
Philippians 1:1-2
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

MEDITERRANEAN: Mytilene Mayor reneges on promise to support Pipka welcome center for refugees; orders closure

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 Meeting with Mayor Galenos

On 16 September, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Mediterranean’s partner, the civil society initiative, The Village of All Together, met with Spyros Galenos, the mayor of Mytilene, on the Island of Lesvos, Greece.  They wanted to enlist the support of the mayor and to address the repeated failures of the police, coastguard, and other authorities at the Moria Reception Center to register and release migrants efficiently and to provide for their basic needs.

In the week before, the police had not processed many people, but continued to bring migrants to Pikpa without providing sleeping materials, clothes, or medical care for them.  On Monday night, around 600 people were staying in Pikpa—a place intended for 80-100.  Many slept on the grass with no protection whatsoever.

CPT Mediterranean accompanied the members of Village of All Together to the meeting in the mayor’s office.

MEDITERRANEAN: How First Reception Centres treat migrants arriving in Greece

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 I spent a lot of time over several weeks talking with different groups of migrants who had spent at least a couple of nights at Moria, the first reception center located in Mytilene, Lesbos.  The conditions they described were not what I was expected from a first reception center, which is supposed to be a shelter for human beings running from wars, conflicts and persecutions.

“There is no shower.  They are broken and we could not use any of them,” one of the migrants said before leaving for Athens.

 â€œThe toilets are not working and we had to bring bucket water to flush manually after using them,” Masoumeh an Afghan woman said.  She had spent two nights in Moria with her family before traveling to Athens.

 â€œThe sewage is coming into the hallways and sometimes even into the rooms.  The beds were very dirty and so smelly,” Ali, an Afghan man who was in Moria for two nights with his family, said.

Moria First Reception Centre

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

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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.