Reflections

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.

COLOMBIA PUBLIC WITNESS REFLECTION: Killing social leaders is massacring hope

CPTnet
17 February 2017
COLOMBIA PUBLIC WITNESS REFLECTION: Killing social leaders is massacring hope

by Salvador Castro 

Colombia is a country of diverse realities and of melancholic complexities, a place where violence has become a daily bread and the claws of criminal death constantly obscure the way. But, as an oasis in the desert, there exist men and women who refresh hopes and revive dignity and ability to smile again. 

These women and men emerge from communities that are tired of suffering, and being strongly and deeply rooted in the territory, they nourish joys and breathe a desire for freedom. These men and women with their strength and solidarity make the empire tremble, an empire that sends its jackals to devour us.

Salvador reading names of Social Leaders who have been killed

We, members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), came together from different parts of the world as people of nonviolence to march and stand in act of solidarity and brotherhood with those 123 leaders who had been killed in the last year. With their lives and actions, these social leaders built paths of day-to-day peace. However, their steps were removed from the path, their voices silenced, their roots cut out and their lights extinguished.

But even when hope is weak it is difficult to kill it.

COLOMBIA PUBLIC WITNESS REFLECTION: Memory is resistance

CPTnet
10 February 2017
COLOMBIA PUBLIC WITNESS REFLECTION: Memory is resistance

 by Katherine Crosby

 

“In spite of all the persecution, today we are still here.”

                      ~ A Social Leader in Colombia

 

Our team arrived in Bogotá and has set up with cameras, hats, banners, drums, and megaphone. We begin our march toward the plaza at the center of the city. I am holding one side of a banner that reaches from above my head down to the ground; it stretches across about three feet to my companion holding the other side. I pause to examine the Colombia shaped black silhouette painted across the fabric. Inside of the map are several white dots of varying sizes, each placed in a different one of Colombia’s departments or provinces. The bold, black number on each dot represents how many social leaders and human rights defenders have been killed in each department since the beginning of 2016: 123 in total.

CPTers stand with a banner: Silencio es violencia

For the past three weeks, our group has been in Colombia as trainees with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Call for solidarity from Standing Rock across different communities

CPTnet

19 December 2016

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Call for solidarity from Standing Rock across different communities

by John Bergen

I first learned about CPT as a young child, when a member of my church joined a delegation to Palestine. This was the late 90s, and CPT was standing alongside Palestinians facing home demolitions (the Campaign for Secure Dwellings). I didn't fully understand why Israeli military forces were demolishing people's homes and taking their land but instinctively I knew that it was wrong.

Fast forward almost twenty years, and CPT continues to stand alongside people’s movements to protect community, water, and land. After I graduated from high school, I went on my own CPT delegation (to Grassy Narrows) and eventually trained with CPT and served with the teams in Kurdistan and Palestine.

People Gathering in Oceti Sakowin Camp

Photo published by Oceti Sakowin camp website. (©Toni Cervantes)

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: I love God


CPTnet
18 December 2016
COLOMBIA REFLECTION: I love God.

by Jhon Henry

There is nothing more liberating than saying I love God, because by God’s love I am able to understand the struggles of my sisters and brothers, through God’s love it is possible to understand that my commitment as a Christian is to transform the world into a more just place where all can have a place in which to live, a just world for me, for you, for us, for all.

Man from Las Pavas collects firewood

A man from Las Pavas collects firewood for community members who take nightly shifts to guard their crops from attacks by palm oil company, Aportes San Isidro’s private security. (Caldwell Manners/CPT)


MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Being the sidekick


This year seems to be a quiet one in Pikpa. No “masses of refugees flooding” the island of Lesbos, no extra ferries to bring them to Athens, no more riots in the humiliating, overcrowded and dignity-depriving camp of Moria. Instead, there’s a big colorful painting on the main building of Pikpa, an organized schedule for volunteers and voluntourists. Women do their daily washing; kids and men help with the gardening and the lifeguards run a swimming program called “reconciliation with the sea.”

So what else is there to do for an organization like CPT you ask? This question, along with the admiration I receive from some for being “brave” to go into crisis and conflict regions leads me to think that I have some explaining to do.

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Refugee--the human face of God

When I arrived in Mytilene International Airport Lesvos Greece on 10 July, the city center and the entire island of Lesvos were not new for me. Similarities between what could be considered a Philippine tourist destination spot and the culture of Lesvos can be noticed through the architecture, scenery, weather, urban planning, stony seabed and beautiful mountains. In short, Lesvos is a holiday paradise. The street acts as such: crazy lorry drivers, ending lanes, racing cars and reasonably easy public transport—it felt like home to me. 

However, my main reason for visiting the island was to assist in the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams Mediterranean project (CPT). Since the war in Syria and Iraq, Greece—and specifically Lesvos—has been the frontline of the refugee crises. Lesvos and the Aegean Sea coast near Turkey are the main focal points for the massive wave of refugees from different countries (Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, etc.) entering the EU. After the EU-Turkey deal (March 20) everything has changed. Presently, many describe Lesvos as two worlds colliding: where holiday paradise and refugee crisis converge. 


BORDERLANDS DELEGATION: “Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason”

CPTnet
March 19, 2016
BORDERLANDS DELEGATION: “Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason”

The USA-Mexican Border wall cuts a brown line through the vast desert terrain. It is visible for miles as it snakes to the horizon. This is the wall that Mexican and Central American migrants climb and jump over, sometimes four or five times, to return to an established life in the US or to start a new one they hope will be better than the life they left behind. In the eyes of the Border Patrol and US immigration policy, they are doing the wrong thing. Without the proper "documentos," they are breaking the law. Period.

But in their own eyes and those of their families, migrants from the south are doing the right thing for the right reason. Victor, a 30-year-old man we met in the Comedor, a migrant resource center operated by Kino Border in Nogales, Sonora, had just been deported from the US—dropped off by a bus at the border after serving 90 days in a private detention center for illegally crossing the border. Victor had lived in New York since he was 9 years old, worked in a restaurant, and had a wife and three children. He had returned to Mexico only briefly—for three hour—to see his mother before she died. After leaving his mother, he returned to the border to cross back into the country that he called home. He was caught by Border Patrol and convicted through Operation Streamline, a fast track means of processing illegal entry cases in groups of up to 70 migrants. He was sent to detention. He had tried to cross the border two previous times and had received shorter sentences—15 days and 30 days. He would try again, he said, though he would likely get a two year sentence next time. In his heart, he was doing the right thing for the right reason. It was really the only thing he could imagine doing.