Reflections

GREECE REFLECTION: Poems from the Brink of Despair; powerful voices of refugees in detention of Moria

CPTnet

August 15 2017

GREECE REFLECTION: Poems from the Brink of Despair; powerful voices of refugees in detention of Moria

compiled by: Annelies Klinefelter

The camps near Mytilene (the capital of Greek Lesbos island) are filling up because of the steady influx of people — between fifty and a hundred each day. Because of this, Greek authorities opened a new camp in the north of the island where most refugees have been arriving. In an effort to counteract this influx the authorities arrange weekly deportations and send around 8-15 people back to Turkey against their will. There is no love for the European Union-Turkey deal here. 

I talked with a number of refugees. They are desperate. One man was telling me about the growing numbers of self-inflicted mutilations and even suicides.

People come from all over the world to seek protection of the European Union: Iraq, Iran, Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other places.

Tuesday 21 June, 2017 marked the commemoration of an International Refugee Day. On Lesbos, I participated in an event where the detained refugees from the Moria camp were allowed to speak. They read beautiful poems they had written that reflect their pains and send a powerful message to us all and the powers that be.

Lesvos Solidarity

Photo credit: http://www.lesvossolidarity.org

PALESTINE: What would you risk for peace?

CPTnet

31 July 2017

PALESTINE: What would you risk for peace?

by Rachelle Friesen 

In April 2017, more than 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners went on a hunger strike. As I write this article, strikers have refused food and have been drinking only salt water for the last 31 days. They are protesting being held without charge or trial, medical negligence, poor treatment and the lack of family visits. The strikers are putting their bodies at risk to nonviolently protest their treatment; many are experiencing severe fatigue, malnutrition and dizziness.

Throughout Palestine, people are rising up in support of the hunger strike. Nonviolent resistance to the policies of occupation are not new. When I lived and worked in Palestine with Mennonite Central Committee, part of my job was to accompany and support the nonviolent resistance. Every week, activists would protest against the separation barrier in various villages around the West Bank, and every week those same activists were faced with violent repression from the Israeli military, who used tear gas, sound bombs, rubber-coated-steel bullets, live ammunition and beatings by soldiers. 

While putting their bodies in danger, they also risked arrest. At the Nakba demonstration in 2015, Mazzen Al Azzah, a friend and nonviolent activist, was arrested. When he was released, it was on the condition that he would not attend any more demonstrations. When I asked him what he was going to do, his response was, “I will go. I am not afraid. This is part of the struggle.”

Palestinian man

GREECE REFLECTION: The Tree with the Ten Fruits; conversations with a boy named Sina at Pikpa.

CPTnet

24 July 2017

GREECE REFLECTION: The Tree with the Ten Fruits; conversations with a boy named Sina at Pikpa. 

by: Rûnbîr Serkepkanî

Sina does not believe in the standardized definition of things. His mind does not comprehend standardized frameworks. He understands life as flowing — flowing into dreams, trees, animals and seas. He is passionate about planting. Outside his family’s house he has sown dozens of flowers, herbs and other plants in little pots. Once I was sitting on the bench outside the office. And he came up to me with one of them. “I planted this!” he says, “I love planting”. Chicki, one of the dogs of the camp, is present, and Sina tries to feed Chicki with the plant. Chicki is not really interested.

After he sailed to Athens with his family for his interview at the asylum office, he came back full of new impressions and ideas about things. He trots past me once riding on a stick. “Is that your new horse, Sina?” I ask him. He stops and wipes the sweat from his brow with his arm. “No, it is not,” he said, “It is my new train”. Then he approaches me. “We went to Athens by ferry. The ferry was so big. We went to the top of the ferry and the sea was all around us,” he exults. “How was Athens?” I ask. “Athens is too crowded. We went by train. It is like a big snake which goes under the ground. We went inside it and it took us all the way to my uncle's place,” he replies. “I have to get on my train again,” he finishes. Then he rides off aboard his train.

Lesvos

PALESTINE REFLECTION: Three stories of throwing

CPTnet

17 July 2017

PALESTINE REFLECTION: Three stories of throwing

by Kathy Moorhead Thiessen

In March 2017, I spent 10 days in Hebron and observed three throwing situations that showed a microcosm of the occupation in that Palestinian city. Hebron, a major city in the southern West Bank, is where some 800 Jewish settlers, protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, have moved into the old city, among the Palestinian population.

I was there with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) a faith-based organization that has teams in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Canada and Hebron, Palestine. The Palestine team, which began in 1995, supports Palestinian-led, nonviolent, grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation and the unjust structures that uphold it. Some of their activities are documenting the treatment of school children passing through military checkpoints and of Palestinians going to Friday prayers at Ibrahimi Mosque. CPT team members also attend to calls from Palestinian families who are harassed by Israeli settlers.

Shuhada Street in Hebron, once a vibrant market road that is now forbidden to all Palestinians, was the route for a parade marking the Jewish festival of Purim. Israeli settlers were welcome to walk there. Music, laughter, costumes and much wine added to the celebration, as they commemorated the courage of Queen Esther and the buffoonery of the evil Haman.

Israeli soldiers are arresting a Palestinian boy

Photo: Israeli Border Police detains a Palestinian boy who threw a stone at the reinforced checkpoint.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo Eviction Suspended


CPTnet

10 July 2017

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo Eviction Suspended

Last week, the eviction ordered for July 5 in El Guayabo was suspended after the Inspector General and Public Advocate offices in Bogotá warned that the human rights of the residents of El Guayabo would be at high risk of violation.

In January, the local court in Puerto Wilches, the municipal center for El Guayabo, ruled in favor of Rodrigo López Henao, in his claim to ownership of the San Felipe parcel of land of which 150 families have been dependent on for the last 30 years. While the residents of El Guayabo were only notified of the eviction on June 30th they have been living with the potential threat of eviction since the ruling, a repetition of the violent and traumatic eviction of the local teacher in June 2014.

Victims of the Colombian armed conflict are guaranteed certain rights under the constitution to prevent a violation of their fundamental rights. The letter sent by the Land delegates of the Inspector General and Public Advocate offices that was addressed to the judge who made the ruling, and the Police Inspector – the public office that enforces evictions – argued that the residents of El Guayabo “have not been guaranteed their right to due process.” If the eviction were to be enforced, the municipal authorities would have to first comply with a list of eight prerequisites pertaining to procedures that guarantee the human rights of persons affected by the armed conflict as required by the Constitutional Court ruling T239/13.

On July 4th, two members of the community visited the Police Inspector’s office in Puerto Wilches to acquire a written statement declaring the suspension of the eviction. The first statement with which they were provided justified the suspension due to the lack of an adequate riot police personnel. Only upon insistence by the farmers was the declaration amended to acknowledge the receipt of official correspondence from Bogotá to suspend the eviction because enforcing it would violate their human rights by omission for not following through with the “procedures of eviction.”

Family in El Guayabo

Photo credit: Caldwell Manners

PALESTINE AND USA REFLECTION: The Struggle to Breathe; state policies and lethal violence target Palestinian people and black US American communities

CPTnet

7 July 2017

PALESTINE AND USA REFLECTION: The Struggle to Breathe; state policies and lethal violence target Palestinian people and black US American communities

by Rachelle Friesen 

Oppression chokes, squeezing communities until breath becomes more and more difficult. It displaces people from their land, pushes people into low-income neighbourhoods where folks struggle to survive in markets of high-unemployment, and contains people through mass incarceration. In targeted communities every day’s existence becomes a battleground to regain breath. 

This is acutely felt in the black community in the United States. The unemployment rate for African Americans is 8.8 percent, double rate of what it is for whites. One in three black men can expect to go to prison in their life time. A black man is 5.1 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white man. In 2016 the police killed more than 250 black people in the USA. 

In Palestine, there is a similar struggle for existence as Israeli policies of displacement push and confine Palestinians into extremely crowded zones. Israeli settlements expand and Palestinian land shrinks, strangling opportunities for farmers. There are 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli detention as one in four Palestinian men will spend time in prison. Walls, checkpoints, and settler-bypass roads contain and threaten communities. Meanwhile in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth, Palestinians are caged while facing a barrage of bombings and shootings from the Israeli Military on a frequent basis.

Struggle to breathe in USA and Palestine

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: We don’t have to soldier on; grief is part of Christian peacemaking.

CPTnet

3 July 2017

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: We don’t have to soldier on; grief is part of Christian peacemaking.

by Sarah Thompson and Tim Nafziger

Michael J. Sharp was a close friend. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) he was a Mennonite witness, scholar and peacemaker. Over five years, first with Mennonite Central Committee and then with the United Nations (UN) group of experts, he cultivated relationships of trust and respect with people who were experiencing dreadful violence, exploitation because of government corruption, and the oppressive impact of generations of corporate-colonial resource extraction. His teamwork there included demobilizing armed groups, investigating human rights abuses, and reporting to the UN Security Council towards their goal of creating the conditions for peace in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

MJ Sharp with CPTers Sarah Thompson and Jonathan Brenneman
                                                                  MJ Sharp in the middle with Sarah Thompson and CPTer Jonathan Brenneman

GREECE: Moria, plea for freedom and improved living conditions for refugees detained in a camp on Lesbos

CPTnet

20 June 2017

GREECE: Moria, plea for freedom and improved living conditions for refugees detained in a camp on Lesbos.

by: Aaron Kaufmann, 

CPT Europe regional project coordinator 

I do not know how the town of Moria got its name. Perhaps it has a specific meaning in Greek, a language in which I lack any skill. Perhaps it was the name of its founder. Whatever the case may be, when I hear it, my mind is instantly drawn to thoughts of the fallen Dwarven stronghold of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It is probably not fair to compare Moria, Lesbos to Tolkien’s Moria, a deserted underground cavern void of hope that has become the mass grave of an entire city — especially since I have never been invited by a wizard or dwarf to visit it. There is, however, near the Greek town a camp sharing its name, and the comparison between these two tragic places is painfully apt.

I have never been inside the camp of Moria either, but I have seen it from the outside. Fences hold the asylum seekers inside. Moria is not officially a camp — it is a “reception center” for refugees, who are “received” and locked straight away. They spend 25 days locked inside. Their first 25 days in the “enlightened and free West” are spent behind walls topped with razor wire. They are forced to sleep in rows on the ground. They may perhaps be given a blanket, if they are lucky. And they are expected to refrain from complaining. Sometimes there is running water, sometimes not. This place, if anywhere, is a trap and a tomb. It is a grave for hope. It is where humans, like the dwarves of Tolkien’s stories, wait around to expire, their dreams and aspirations all but dead. One man told me, “I would rather have died from a bomb in my own country than die like this in a ‘free’ country.”

Crown close to the fence.

GREECE: Arc of voices. The work of resistance of CPT partners on Lesvos.

CPTnet

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.

 World without Borders

PALESTINE: Reflection of a CPT Steering Committee member: What I learned during my travel to Palestine

CPTnet

25 April 2017

Reflection of a CPT Steering Committee member: What I learned during my travel to Palestine

by Timothy Wotring

I attended the Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Board Meeting as the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship representative, not expecting anything life-altering, but transformation waits for no one. CPT organized their Board Meeting in Hebron, Palestine during the week of March 13th. It just so happened to coincide with my Spring break and I decided to travel halfway around the world, instead of resting from my other part-time jobs.

When we landed in Tel Aviv, I prepared to be questioned. My first encounter was with an Israeli soldier. He asked me the standard questions of who, what, when, where, why of my time in Israel. I passed the test and finally made it to passport control. There, an officer asked me the same basic questions but this time more directly about my time in Iraqi Kurdistan, which was actually my first delegation with CPT last May. Unimpressed with my answer, he sent me to a separate room with a few others who apparently had red flags about their passports as well. 

About 10 minutes in, an Israeli Security Force agent called me our for questioning. She first handed me a sheet that looked like this:

 security sheet

I filled it out and she asked about where I worked, organizations I financially support, if I have ever protested, if I give to organizations who support BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), and other pointed questions about where I was staying on my visit. Finally, she requested to see my phone, searched through my emails, contacts, Facebook, and text messages, and asked if I knew Arabic.