Refugees, Where to Go?

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The Voice of a Volunteer 

Abandoned belongings and life jackets on the shore

Abandoned belongings and life jackets on the shore

On the beach of Lesbos – a moment of silence among the life vests, piles of clothes and wrecked boats, just before the next dinghy is expected to arrive: yet another boat overloaded with people who have risked drowning to flee war and misery. Children, mothers, and fathers that bore more than any human being should have to bear. People who no longer have a place where they are welcome; who can neither return to where they came from, nor stay here.

They named us–thevolunteers–the reawakened heart of humanity. We assist wherever help is needed. We drag refugees out of the sea, offer them dry clothes, food, medical supplies when possible, and a place to sleep. Many of us are working until exhaustion every day. It is a privilege to be able to help, and we are grateful. It can show us the power of the human heart – to see how gratefully it reacts to friendliness, how ready it is to trust and support others and how much it is directed towards opening, over and over again.

And yet we know that while our engagement relieves some misery. it is not able to overcome it. We offer first aid to people; however, we then let them leave into an uncertain future.

They continue bombing cities, continue to displace people and continue to kill refugees – with the force of arms that were produced in my country. At the borders and coasts, they continue making huge profits exploiting this misery. Politicians continue to seal off and fortify their countries’ borders, build walls and sharp fences and pay rogue regimes to hinder the refugees from entering Europe.

Meanwhile, in this very moment, over there on the Turkish coast, there is the small child, playing or sleeping, laughing or perhaps crying, who is about to die in the sea. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow or the day after. The sea would not have enough water if it were to cry over his or her death. I well understand Rosa Luxemburg who, facing the war, once said, “Perhaps we need to step out of all of humanity.”

Today, the reawakened heart of humanity is beating full of rage. Tomorrow it might be sympathetic and cooperative again, but today it wants to beat you round the head with your fences and guns, your stupidity and power politics, your comfortable sleep and your xenophobia. What we are facing in Lesbos every single day is not just the misery of countless people; it is the absolutely blatant failure of the entire current system. No matter how well-intended, democratic or cultivated this system pretends to be, it is based on war and will continue to wage war so long as it exists. And we are part of it, not just as soldiers or politicians, but also as well-behaved citizens and consumers. War will not end, so long as we live, act and think within this system. What we are currently experiencing in the refugee crisis, actually is the absolute exclamation mark behind the imperative of our time – either change yourself or you will perish!

This refers to all of us…
As inhabitants of Europe: The wealth of our countries was bought with the weapons with which the current wars are being fought. Whosoever sows wars will harvest refugees. We hide our fears behind defensive walls of indifference, built from consumer goods that nobody needs. Yet, staying silent is no longer an option. The crisis will not just disappear by itself. Within a system that depends on war there can be no future worth living, neither for the refugees nor for us. Let us rise up and end arms exports! Let us build communities from which a new society can develop; one in which people of different national and cultural backgrounds can find shared identity, solidarity and prospects for the future. In this spirit, let us continue to say ‘welcome’!

As refugees: Family fathers who experienced war and destruction of their homes and could bring themselves, their families and children to Europe with great effort. Mothers and women who carry the biggest burden – like in every war. Young men from the Maghreb and Arab countries who long dreamed of a freer world, and of breaking out of the corset of sexual prohibition. And the children! So many of them. They are all on their way to the big cities of the North – and therefore to the center of the system that has destroyed their homes. Do they really need to integrate themselves into this misguided dream of life? They and all other people need another kind of goal to follow, another dream to live for.

As soldiers and fighters of all parties in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq. Their ardent belief in freedom, democracy or God’s purity has been abused. They follow commanders they cannot trust and fight in wars that do not benefit them. Before, they themselves lived on streets like the ones they currently raze into the ground. They have once been as fearful as those children now dying under their bombs. One day they will seek their way back into the human community. They will need the possibility of forgiveness, the change and a new beginning – a new form of engaging their vast powers in service of humanity.

As journalists reporting from the war zones and crisis areas. Whosoever incites horror without offering a way out, becomes an accomplice in the cycle of war. In reality, this task is very crucial. What primarily decides over whether there will be peace or war is information, not weapons. Help to disclose the background and root causes of war and to highlight solutions. Document the common path towards the vision of a peaceful world!

Politicians and decision makers: As volunteers working in Lesbos we have questions to you, naive questions that could come from the many children arriving here every day. For example, if you are able to drop bombs on Syria, why do you not also drop relief supply and food? You send billions to the Turkish regime, which pushes many refugees back into the civil war. Why is it, on the other hand, so difficult for you to open a registration office on the Turkish side that would allow the refugees to cross the Aegean Sea safely and legally? You honor volunteers and give thanks to the welcoming mentality in Europe. So why do you force the Greek police to restrict and even imprison volunteers?
We know how often your hand are tied. You represent a system that is no longer working. The demands of big money and the technocratic bureaucracy of the EU suffocate the best ideas.
We invite you to spend a week serving with us, here, at the beach of Lesbos. Receive the people that lost everything. How would your heart respond to them? What decisions would you be forced to take?

There is no solution within the system. Its weapons, wars, and relationships of production and consumption, have destroyed the homes of 60 million people around the world – that is the current number of refugees worldwide. True help means addressing the causes of migration. True help means ending the system that cannot stop perpetuating war. We will succeed in stepping out of the old system when we succeed in building a new one – at first on small scale in many places worldwide, until we are able to replace the old one. Yet, what a task this is! How much knowledge about ecological restoration, true collaboration, community, and truth in interpersonal relations will be necessary for that! How much forgiveness, compassion and true dialogue beyond all cultural borders!

As volunteers in Lesbos we have shown that humanity’s heart is still beating, despite everything. It is a political power the world should count on. The first refugees join and become volunteers themselves. Through this, a broad, new planetary community comes into existence here. Every day we bear witness to how people outdo themselves, how compassionately they communicate, cooperate effectively and are able to perform miracles if they need to. The whole world is confronted by this need: Join us in making this planet once again the home it was originally meant to be, for people, animals and all beings.

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Refugees, Where to Go?

  1. Leila, you have eloquently shared your anguish and your outrage at how the current economic system of ongoing warfare is destroying all of our lives. Refugees bear the brunt of it. My generation failed to carry through on what we started in the sixties when we turned out in the streets for peace and love. We got bought out, bribed, coerced, divided, and assimilated. The passionate young people today who insist on an end to warfare are the ones who will save us, if we can be saved. I like to believe that the creative life force will assist us in an evolutionary path to a higher spiritual consciousness of caring for each other, and that we have the ability to devise new ways of living on the earth. I am doing a five-week workshop right now at Arcosanti and learning about arcologies. Paolo Soleri was a visionary architect who manifested in his work many of the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin. I am committed to learning to live in community, as I believe that we must evolve to better ways of organizing ourselves. Thank you for your committment to help the refugees. It takes great strength of character to face the darkness in the world today in the way that you are doing. So many people choose to ignore it.

    • Hi Ariel, I see your comment only now, thank you very much for your powerful words. I heard of Arcosanti many years ago and did not know that it is still alive. We need places to learn about the world which we want to create in future. All the best to you! Leila

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