Recently, the Remonstrant Church, a liberal type of church, based in the Netherlands, wrote an article about us and we want to share it with you!
In the article, Arrën Kruyt, Chairman of 'Faith and Society' of the Remonstrants, discusses the impressions he got from camp Moria and compares it to our Kara Tepe campUS. He also explains his brief interactions with campUS residents as well as Greek locals. This article is definitely a must-read for those who really want to get a good grasp of how things are like on Lesvos!
You can click here to read the full article in Dutch or scroll down to read a translated (English) version of the full article!
Article by Arrën Kruyt, Chairman of 'Faith and Society' of the Remonstrants / Sept 2018
Lesbos, the beginning or the end of Europe? The Remonstrant diaconal attitude Faith and Society has become involved in Movement On The Ground (MOTG), a young NGO founded by Johnny de Mol. During his holiday on Lesvos, he helped remove refugees from the water, then later co-founded MOTG. Because G & S is one of MOTG's donors, I was urged to go to Lesbos myself. I did that this summer.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived were the English, Greek and Spanish warships in the harbor of Mytilini, the capital of Lesvos, in the framework of Frontex. Frontex is the European agency to monitor the external borders of Europe. This is where European cooperation does work. The most touching thing I witnessed was the Graveyard, a rubbish dump, full of life jackets of arrived and/or drowned refugees. It is full of orange plains. Some children only had pool rings... I have spoken with many refugees and social workers. I simply spoke to refugees in the city park and the conversation always got going smoothly. Most refugees have nothing to do and have to wait indefinitely for a decision by the Greek authorities about their refugee status. I explain a story. It struck me that S. spoke good English above average. He comes from Iraqi Kurdistan and he had initially learned English as a dishwasher by the Americans. They realized that he could do more, and he was then used as an ICT expert. Because of his work for the Americans, he was threatened with death by Islamists and he fled with his wife and child to Lesvos. People drowned before his eyes. I invited him for a second meeting at my expense in a café. But that is not the way hospitality in the Middle East works. I was invited for a conversation on the harbor side where he received me with a thermos of tea and biscuits. He has been in Lesbos since November and he has no idea how long it will take. S. is energetic and now gives English lessons and computer science to other refugees through a non-governmental organization (NGO). Not everyone can do the same as S. I also met many demoralized youngsters who hang out in the city park during the day and swim in the darkness behind their rocks in the dark because they cannot afford to go to a swimming pool.
Everyone I spoke to agreed that the official refugee camp near the village of Moria is a disaster. Moria is a former penitentiary institution with barbed wire as a fence. Because the camp is overcrowded with men who have nothing to do, there are regular fights when distributing food to the more than five thousand inhabitants. At the entrance the Greek Mobile Unit is permanently ready to intervene. Médecins Sans Frontières has written a devastating report on the lack of hygiene this month. I was not allowed to enter the Moria camp because rumors circulated about TB, HIV and scabies. A much better camp is Kara Tepe, which is actually run by Movement On The Ground. The camp is smaller, and families live in their own small houses. Volunteers from NGOs run a clothing bank and a nursery. Sports activities are organized and of course also language and other lessons. The food distribution runs quietly here, and no policeman is needed. There are solar cells for charging mobile phones to maintain contact with family left behind. Because Moria is bursting at the seams, many refugees moved to a nearby olive grove, MOTG decided to lease part of the olive grove and create a mini-campUS there. With the refugees together, now, according to good Greek custom, terraces are being constructed where houses and tents come. The solar cells are already there and here too active lessons are given. An American woman in his sixties gives English: “America has great things and crazy things. Trump is totally crazy and that's why I am here."
I have also spoken to many Greeks. Some are angry because they think that the arrival of the refugees has led to fewer tourists. The question is whether that is true. Other Greeks have dedicated themselves to refugees with heart and soul. A good example is the couple Nikos and Katarina. Nikos is a fisherman and helped the first refugees on land and provided food and clothes. It cannot be more biblical. He ran a restaurant outside the city with his wife. In that restaurant refugees can now catch their breath and they get food and drink and if necessary also clothes. He converted the garage under his house into an internet café for refugees and for Greeks from the neighborhood. He is assisted by volunteers from many countries. Europe Wim Kok said as Prime Minister that the European Union is a community of values. On Lesbos, confidence in Europe as a community of values is seriously put to the test. Greece has been promised that the refugees would be distributed within the EU after the conclusion of the refugee deal with Turkey. Because this has not happened, there are tens of thousands of refugees in Lesvos and Chios. Lesbos is the beginning of Europe for the refugees. I do not hope that Lesbos is the end of the EU as a community of values. Volunteers, NGOs and churches are the true Europe.
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