Editor’s Note: Tikkun and our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives supports the work of Tamera and the Institute for Global Peace Work.
–Rabbi Michael Lerner
Refugee Aid: A Vision of International Solidarity
Statement following reports from our co-workers in Lesbos
by Dieter Duhm
The people were driven from their home countries by unspeakable suffering and it was unspeakable suffering which they encountered on their way into an allegedly better world. Even winter did not stop the wave of refugees. Carrying their children with nothing to eat, no blankets, no place to stay, no medical assistance, suddenly they faced barbed wire. Thousands arrived on the island of Lesbos almost frozen to death, having nearly drowned; some had lost their families on the way. Some boats had sunk. In recent years countless thousands drowned to death. Drowned to death! Nearly every day an awful drama takes place on board an overloaded boat shortly before it sinks. Boats filled with friends, parents with children, babies, some of them new-born. Imagine this, imagine!
Many of us have been involved in helping refugees. At different times a number of our co-workers have been on Lesbos and have witnessed what is happening there. And Lesbos itself is just one tiny point in this apocalypse.
What can one do? How can we help? We know the global and political background that has led to this historic migration. The situations in people’s home countries are unbearable. Farmers are starving to death; dissidents are assassinated along with their families; child soldiers are forced to kill their parents by the controlling militias. These are the results of colonization by Western industrial nations in recent centuries and of the subjugation to capitalist law, enforced economically and militarily all over the world. The material wealth of our society is based on exploiting other peoples and cultures. The arms industry, with the support of all national governments, delivers weapons into crisis areas. They deliver neither food nor relief supplies but bombs! This is the essential structure behind today’s drama. Progressive groups and political parties in Europe try to break this vicious cycle, but they do not succeed because the global arms industry’s lobbies are way too powerful. This is why we are stuck with the simple unavoidable truth: whosoever delivers weapons sows the seeds of war. Whosoever sows war will harvest refugees.
Yes! This is true but where to go from here? The insight that we live in an imperialistic system, which secures its sources of profit by force of arms, will help neither the refugees nor their helpers. Those who are helping in Lesbos and other places and are witnessing the suffering with their own eyes, find themselves in an almost unbearable position. They might be able to offer help now but what will happen afterwards? They themselves come from a society that has, to a great extent, generated this misery and perpetuates it nearly every time that we buy something.
Facing into this nameless misery we need not to accuse or condemn but to take new decisions that bring about global humaneness. It is no longer just the communists that criticize what is happening on this planet and know that this grand scale organized crime is not carried out by random criminals, but by banks, corporations, governments, secret services and the mass media. We know that politicians are horribly constrained. Angela Merkel is actually a likable woman; she opened her heart for the refugees with great courage. However, this same woman also signs arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Why does she do it? Why does she not do anything to stop this insanity? Because she cannot; because she is part of a system which is mightier than her.
The calamity will continue so long as this system exists. Right now those fleeing need our assistance. In addition to helping, however, we must think to how we can establish another global system which is not reliant on profit, weaponry technology and genocide. We give thanks to all those who have given their all, reaching total exhaustion, in order to save the desperate, tortured and drowning ones. May you continue in spite of it all – despite callous coast guards, police blockades, right-wing terror and preachers of hate throughout Europe. Remain steadfast on the side of welcome. Through your power a new humaneness can spread around the world. We must see to it that this humaneness is not broken by the old political forces. We are all on our way the towards a new life in a new world.
Alongside the globalization of violence, following a yearning that we all carry inside ourselves, a globalization of compassion and solidarity could now come into being. The establishment of this new movement requires a more long-term perspective, powerful communities and a compelling shared goal.
The vision of an intact world is not just a wishful dream; it exists as a potential anchored in the structures of reality. We can manifest this potential on our planet by forming an international network committed to this purpose. We invite all colleagues, comrades, brothers and sisters, who are committed to the assistance of refugees and to peace, to work on a global solution. We want to end the misery of the refugees once and for all. What is happening now is not new; it is the result of a very long history. People have been fleeing atrocities for millennia. Since the 19th century this migration has become a feature of global war economics. We can look back to the refugee trails at the end of World War II. Then there was the sinking of the “Lusitania” in the Baltic Sea, an overloaded refugee ship carrying 9000 people. Today we see the dinghies sinking between Turkey and Lesbos. It is always and everywhere the same image, the same destiny, the same powerless mourning. In her diaries from Lesbos, our co-worker Dara Silverman writes following lines,
I’ve turned my schedule upside down and have committed to the night shifts at Moria’s distribution tent, handing out clothes and other basic necessities. Quickly changing the people that arrive off boats wet and freezing.
A few nights ago was very calm. Only one bus came in. Many, more than 20, small children arrived soaking wet and cold. Rain was pouring down and the only other woman on the night shift and I took all the women and children into a tent to change. It was mayhem.
One small girl, three or four-years-old, cried [primally], ceaselessly. “She’s been crying this way through the whole boat ride because she wants her brother,” a man tells through a translator. The fate of her brother, I do not know.
Two nights ago was another quiet night shift at Moria. Quiet because none of the boats that left Turkey made it to Greece. Up to 100 people, many of them children died at sea that night.
What happens when a mother is holding her child that has just frozen to death? Or when a mother is about break down and hands her child to a volunteer with the words, ‘Take care of it, please.’ What happens in the hearts of the those involved? And what happens in the hearts of the politicians who are about to ‘solve’ the problem by building sharp barbed wire fences and by deploying police? Coast guards have repeatedly fired on refugee boats; they wrecked them and stood by watching how the people drowned to death. It is part of an unimaginable reality. And yet, are not these coast guards – like the Nazis, the perpetrators of the Holocaust, the American killers in the Vietnam War, the paramilitaries in Colombia, the fanatic Israeli soldiers who devastated Gaza in summer 2014 or the young fighters of the “Islamic State” – all human beings just as we are? People with the same longing for home and trust, with the same potential for living a loving life and the same cruel histories?
Perpetrators and victims are both part of the same vile logic. Today we need a universal vision that transcends this drama and that will reconnect them in the same matrix of life. Beyond current societal orders there is the universal order of the “sacred matrix” which is encoded within the genes of all living beings. We will have peace on Earth when we have learned to honor the sacredness of life and made our ways of living compatible with the principles of this universal order. These principles are not the commandments of institutionalized religions, nor the laws of punishment and retribution but the laws of empathy, mutual support, cooperation and solidarity; principles of all communities that want to survive in the future.
Currently there is much debate about integrating the refugees into contemporary culture. Is that really the only solution? Could they not, in either their home countries or in their destinations, establish another culture, that would allow them to become independent from the forces and markets of global capitalism? Could they create a new kind of autonomous culture that would orient itself towards the laws of life rather than those of profit? Among the refugees are strong spirits that could manifest this immediately. Give refugees land and help them to establish their own self-sufficient communities! They will need relatively little for the Earth produces everything we need if we treat her properly. Self-sufficiency in food can be achieved once water and energy autonomy have been established. There are well-tried methods to secure both – methods of water retention, biogas production, the use of solar energy and so on. In this way new models could arise quickly: models which all of humanity will have to adopt if it is to survive. These would be models for a new Earth, for Terra Nova. We are facing an enormous system change.
The first such models are already being implemented. They are not limited to providing for the basic material needs of their inhabitants, but also take care of creating a new culture of life among their participants. They put an end to the war among the genders, promote the healing of love and from here create a new loving, empathic engagement with animals too. Through an alliance of communities working in the same spirit a new planetary field of life could arise on Earth. The direction of the new humane evolution is clear. Once the first communities operate in this way a morphogenetic world process will begin, as at their core all beings are connected to the sacred matrix. In this context I can only pray: let us collaborate for a new concept of human civilization on our planet. If life life wins there will be no losers.
Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressivdes is an Ally of the work of the Institute for Global Peace Work
Dieter Duhm: Terra Nova. Global Revolution and the Healing of Love, Verlag Meiga, 2015
Dieter Duhm: The Sacred Matrix. From the Matrix of Violence to the Matrix of Life, Verlag Meiga, 2007
Institute for Global Peace Work (IGP)
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