20 June 2016
CPT MEDITERRANEAN BLOG: Deep and violent connections
by CPT Executive Director Sarah Thompson
[Note: Thompson is working with the CPT Mediterranean team on Lesbos. Her blog post has been slightly adapted for CPTnet. The original is available here. ]
It’s a profound day today.
The celebration of Juneteenth (when Africans enslaved in the United States learned of their freedom, declared by the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier).
The one-year anniversary of the massacre of the church at Mother Emanuel AME folks in Charleston, SC.
The one-week anniversary of the Pulse Orlando club shooting.
It’s also Father’s Day, so blessings to the Dads out there…especially those redefining traditional masculinity and providing open-minded and gentle ways of nurturing children (or ideas!) into wholeness.
Tomorrow continues the meaningful days (of course every day we’re alive it’s meaningful!) It’s solstice, and the middle of Ramadan. It only comes around in the summer every 33 years. Given global weirding, this is a hot one!
It’s also World Refugee Day. Being here, working with refugees…this day now means more to me than ever before. I knew theoretically the difficulty of being a refugee: the bureaucracy of paperwork and sometimes arbitrariness of official decisions, long lines, inadequate resources, the fast friendships, the cramped camps, the waiting, oh the waiting.
Our Christian Peacemaker Team is accompanying refugees in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. As Executive Director I have a chance to do a two-week team visit. I sat across the table from a man from Afghanistan yesterday. Neither he nor I are from Greece or speak Greek. I don’t speak Dari yet, and he just began the English classes offered to refugees. We don’t know each other’s names and yet we are deeply and violently connected. My village paid for his village to be bombed (through the US-led war in Afghanistan).
We kind of smile at each other to acknowledge a greeting, but neither of us are happy about the situation so we exchange a glance of agreement that there is no use pretending we are. I can hope that through our work he and I can feel that there is another way to connect as well, through nonviolent interaction. But if it ends there it is not enough, in a way. I want to exchange the real smile that comes after a day of joint action to bring change to global functioning. Tomorrow is World Refugee Day and we will do a public witness action that reminds the public that refugees are not invisible, and mourns the loss of over 1,600 people that have died in crossing by boat from Turkey to Greece. We will thank the Lesbians for being so welcoming to those who made it, and together with them brainstorm ways to insure safe passage for all and challenge EU and US and local policies that lead to so many people being frighteningly expelled from their homes.
We spend time in autonomous efforts organized by those accompanying refugees, such as Lesbos Solidarity, and supporting co-existence efforts led by those most impacted by colonialism, and compiling first hand human rights documentation in some of the camps, which are like detention centers. There was a branch of the Orthodox Church that was very active as well.
Okay, I’m exhausted and will head to bed. Thanks for reading.