I would like to begin this newsletter with the latest news:
New episodes occurred on Monday in the hot spot of Moria, Lesvos.
The situation smelled gunpowder for quite some time but the anger of refugees and migrants was overflown because of the rumors of collective deportations in Turkey. In the morning, about 300 refugees escaped from the hot spot and attempted to carry out a protest in the city, but strong police forces stopped them and forced them to return to the camp where they eventually set bonfires in the encampment of Moria.
The fire burnt uncontrollably, with it large and small tents and everything these people had inside. Mothers with babies in arms, elderly, children, and men raced to flee from the fire with whatever clothing they wore. Many of them barefoot.
According to the first registration of damages, 50 large tents became ashes, three containers with equipment (bedding) and 16 acres of olive trees, while 60% of the refugee camp, which housed more than 3,000 refugees, was destroyed. So, more than three thousand refugees are homeless and are forced to spend the night in the countryside.
Since April 2015, the refugee crisis has evolved into a major political issue not only for the countries of the European Union such as Greece and Italy that receive refugees, but for all of Europe. This is a problem which can not be resolved by bureaucratic, administrative and legislative measures. The challenge which Europe is facing is an existential one. These historic moments are also an opportunity for reflection and review and our proposals need to go beyond the usual practices.
The refugee who leaves his native country because of war and goes on a plastic boat to arrive in Agathonisi or Lesbos, trusts the European bureaucrats, because he believes that he/she will find here the human dignity which is lost in his/her homeland. But often on the road to flee he/she loses his/her life. And we, European citizens still making up plans, programs and studies to integrate them into our societies… Later, these people end up in refugee camps in which nobody wants to stay. And rightly so: Who will bear without protest to eat twice daily for six months, frozen meals, of supermarket quality, or living in tents, or not being able to travel to countries where his relatives are, who can not send his children to school, to work and to offer a life to their families…
And it is not only the conditions in the camp, it is much more the long waiting period for registration on asylum procedures, family reunification, anticipation that creates uncertainty and makes them listen with great suspicion any promise for improving their situation.
Slowly this leads to situations that can become non-manageable. The Islanders and the Greeks generally are people with big heart but the fatigue has started. The North Aegean Islands or Greece is too small to lift such a weight when Europe doesn’t want to take responsibility.
If we fail on the refugee issue, we will give space to the nationalists. Something that is already happening in Europe but also worldwide. We live in a world that creates separation. And separation, borders, fences are destroying trust and increasing fear. Separation is the force that hinders creativity and leads to collective stupidity.
I feel great gratitude towards all of you, friends, and towards the co-workers of Skala, because we have not hesitated to face the challenge and develope collective action throughout the previous months. When I read everyone’s vision I feel the need to act. I apologize for being so late to write this words but one reason is exactly because we feel the responsibility of the issue. We respond to the vision as described by everyone, where we will create a platform, where 10 people from Greece, 10 international activists-volunteers and 10 young people from Syria or Iraq (refugees), some peace activists from Palestine and Israel, or Turkey, will build together, with the help of experts (Blue Print and other specialists), a village, self-sufficient in water, food and energy. At the same time we will begin to listen deeply to each other, to understand the issues that each culture carries. To share, to communicate, to have fun, to learn to live together, but also to create self-sufficient ecological villages and perhaps to start healing our wounds. In this vision, there must be space for the unknown, the unexpected and a more space for experimentation. Actually, in this vision there are more questions than answers, and maybe it is all about creating an open space for all questions.
When we look around and see the rise of fascism in Europe, the rise of racism and xenophobia in West and East, the fundamentalism, the fear in our own cities, in the streets or even in our schools, the meaninglessness and futility in the eyes of young people, a question rises: Is it true that we can’t do anything? Cannot we get back our lives? Not only the refugees but our own.
What does it mean to embrace this challenge of our time?
What does it mean to create a platform not only for refugees but for all of us, who are seeking answers to the huge questions of our time? What does an intercultural dialogue at a time dominated by the monologue of globalisation, xenophobia and the dream of consuming means? What does it mean to create together an intercultural – cooperative and inter-communal project, that at its center lies the theme of peace, of creating home for all homeless and healing?
All the ecovillages have their own issues and a lot of work in the field that they deepen. Is there any space free to give energy, time, manpower etc in a collaborative project, with such a broader theme?
How can every community contribute with the knowledge acquired over the years of work and deepening?
Who will participate? Only those who are deeply interested in these questions; refugees, communities and activists.
Why do this? What is our common goal?
Where do we want to go?
What are the basic principles upon which we will build? For example, equality between men and women of different cultures, religions, etc. or non fundamentalism, non-violence, etc.
Who would support such a project? Communities are more stable than individuals. It could be a combination of communities, experts, activists, universities or organisations etc.
What would be the time frame of the commitment which is needed in such a project?
How do we finance it?
These are just some of the questions…
Love and gratitude!