This is the story of Sayed and his family, refugees from Afghanistan who arrived in Greece in February 2016. I met Sayed while I was working in Greece as one of thousands of volunteers supporting refugees from the Middle East and Asia. Sayed’s story suggests some of the hardships and risks millions of people are taking to escape war and persecution. Sayed encouraged me to write this so others will understand a little about what people will endure to find safety and freedom.
My 90 day visa is up and the rules say I have to leave Europe. I am not ready to leave. Greece has meant so much to me, a place of beauty, community, philosophy and kindness. Continue reading
My hero, Pope Francis, came to Lesvos on my birthday. He was not visiting me personally, as you might guess, but his visit felt personal. He came because so many victims of war, oppression and persecution are not getting the benefit of global leadership that treats them according to Christian values. Or Jewish values. Or Muslim values. Or Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, Shinto, B’hai, Crips and Bloods values.
Wall at Moria, Lesvos
It is very hard to comprehend what has happened on the Island of Lesvos in a very short time. For more than a year, Lesvos was a place of kindness and generosity to half a million refugees. Local residents and international volunteers scrounged up resources with almost no help from government or large NGOs. Food, sanitation and shelter were inadequate but compassion and mutual understanding were in abundant supply.
I returned to Lesvos today after a week at the Port of Piraeus in Athens. Lesvos has changed. Continue reading
Photo taken by Shahrukh Rind, yesterday at Moria Camp, Lesvos
Martin Luther King said “The Arc of the Moral Universe is long but moves toward justice,” expressing the kind of hope that keeps us fighting for our children and something bigger than ourselves. The international agreement between Europe and Turkey that treats more than 3 million lives as a commodity is not moral, as the unfolding events here in Greece have already made clear.
Graffiti in Mytilene
I am heartbroken, like so many others, that Europe today adopted an illegal and inhumane agreement to deport refugees from Greece to Turkey.
Hope is a word you hear a lot on Lesvos. Many here talk about how lucky they have been to have met so many people who have lost everything but still have hope. This week I was inspired again to have welcomed a boat to shore. After hearing that a lot of boats would be landing south of Mytilene, Jo from England and I drove over the mountain to Mytilene. We arrived at about 6:30am at “Campfire,” where the NGOs stand watch all night, and met Cedric, a photojournalist from Paris. Several boats had arrived before dawn, escorted in by Frontex or the Coast Guard.