23 May 2017
GREECE: Arc of voices. The work of resistance of CPT partners on Lesvos.
by Rûnbîr Serkepkanî
Images of boats, of people with arms stretched out for water, of children getting barbecued by the midday sun at the port, hunger strikes and many other unpleasant things—these are the images which I associate with Mytilene, and for a very good reason. Nearly 1,000,000 people have passed through this island in the last three years. As a part of Christian Peacemaker Teams on the island, I have witnessed all of that and more. For me, these tragedies are not merely some news story happening in a far away country, but something deeply personal. When someone gets deported from this island to a future of insecurity, potentially facing incarceration and death, it is personal for me. If I have not actually met that person, I certainly know someone who is a friend of theirs.
We who are bearing witness to what is happening now know who is responsible. It is the vampiric tendencies of capitalism, the weapons industry and the profit-worshiping corporations. It is the sultans, emirs, presidents and lords of war with their armies. Our main partner Lesvos Solidarity was founded by local mothers from Mytilene as Village of all Together several years ago. Lesvos Solidarity has been the main obstacle standing in the way of the total exploitation of refugees and the oppression against them.
The powers-that-be have built an infrastructure of separation and subjugation. At the same time Lesvos Solidarity has been working in the opposite direction. They occupy an abandoned summer camp and have renovated it step by step, transforming it into a shelter for refugees. Here the local people of Mitylene host the refugees and help them recover from the bombs that fell on them, the boats that capsized under them, the memories of their comrades who became martyrs for the freedom of movement.
Last Monday I sang in the choir. Every week a group of people gather in the upper room of the Mosaik Support Centre and sing together. I went there for the first time. I was surrounded by some unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan. A friend of mine from a country in eastern Africa was there as well. I have seen him singing Ottoman-Greek songs over beers with Salones, a Greek singer, here in Mytilene. The old and the young were there, the activists and the marginalized, and the ordinary and abnormal were there. We gathered to sing, to smile, to play with the tones and move to the waves of melodies.
Everyone can come to Mosaik. You can learn new languages there. You can sing songs in Greek, Kurdish, Arabic and other languages. You can find legal counsel that volunteer lawyers provide pro bono. They help the refugees with the asylum application process and sometimes prevent deportations. They gather information about each case and treat their clients with respect and dignity that every individual should receive.
All this is the result of courageous women who, empowered by their compassion, dedication and hospitality, have built an infrastructure of love and solidarity. We as CPT are here to play our small part in easing their burden and accompanying them in their struggle to build a community that is as open, welcoming and full of joy as the choir.
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