Reflections on the Upcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina Bearing Witness Retreat, by Roshi Barbara Wegmüller

Reflections on the Upcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina Retreat, 8-12 May 2017 By of Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Spiegel Sangha, Bern Switzerland

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From War in Syria to Bearing Witness in Auschwitz

Story by Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Switzerland, September 2016 My friend Rabia is an extremely courageous woman and I am happy to share my story of how we met. It was in 2006, only days before Beirut was bombed, and our friend Sami Awad from Bethlehem, Palestine, who is a Peacemaker, gave a talk against the planned war in Lebanon. He was invited to speak at a big peace demonstration in Bern the capital of Switzerland. The square was packed with people and I waited for him at the edge of the crowd. Small children with dark curly hair were playing right next to me, their mothers urging them to keep quiet. I was playing with the children and tried to have a conversation with the women. One of them spoke a little French and was desperately fumbling for words. She told me she had arrived in Berne the day before and I spontaneously handed her my business card saying that if she learnt to speak German we could communicate. Ten months later my phone rang and a female voice said, “this is Rabia speaking, I have learnt German and would like to speak with you.“ I immediately knew who it was and we arranged to meet for coffee and that’s how our friendship began. Rabia is from Palestine and her parents fled from there with small children. They travelled a long way through distant countries, from Yemen to Syria. The war in Syria made life for the extended family unbearable and with the help of Peacemaker Switzerland we could arrange to evacuate many members of the family and get them out of the war zone. We had the entire family stay with us for one week in our home. On the last evening Yazer told us his story. He had not eaten for 3 months, just some leaves to have something in his stomach. He had given his last ration of food to some hungry children. Yazer, the brother of Rabia, a young dentist arrived in Switzerland after a long ordeal and totally famished. What helped him to survive and safe his life was a film he had seen several years earlier by Steven Spielberg — “Schindler’s List“. In the film a few people had survived despite...

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Passover in Piraeus: A Zen Peacemaker’s Plunge with Refugees

  The following report is part 2 in a series of 6 reports, and was written during the Not-Knowing Pilgrimage in Greece. This plunge has been created and self-led by members of the ZPO in the spirit of the 3-tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action.  PASSOVER IN PIRAEUS By Rami Efal “Eye-liners, mascara, make-up, bottle of wine.” That was on Petra’s grocery list on the way to the camp — items she’d promised folks at pier E1.5. I followed the tall bald Dutch woman through the busy late morning market by Piraeus’ pier strip. We passed several homeless people and she’d comment, that’s Roma, that’s local, that’s Bosnian, that’s Syrian. People stop us in the street for small talk, and I feel like the entourage of a rockstar. A young man shakes her hand and tells us he will leave to another camp soon. Petra fills me in that he is a refugee and I’m surprise to understand ‘they’, refugees, walk openly in Piraeus, which is a volunteer-led and police-monitored camp, compared to other military-managed camps where they can’t. In front of a large red church we pass a rally of middle-ages men, we ask and learn they are sea men demonstrating against 60% salary reduction. Homelessness, poverty, job security, I get some of Greece’s challenges even before we hit the refugee camps. We make it across to the port. Massive freighters and island shuttle dock and load. Port E2, a bustling tent camp last week, is now clear. We walk further and arrive at camp E1.5, situated between port E2 and E1. I spot the colored orbs I saw from the bus yesterday a hundred meters ahead and I feel angst-citment. A few steps further and we are deep with the camp. Tents of all sizes, tiny and medium size placed flap to flap, some joined by their opening towards one another and a blanket covers the patio between them. Children, dark skinned, some with bright blue grey eyes through orange skins at each-other, teenagers play card on the ground, a dozen sit in a circle around a power cord stretched to a generator, powering their phones. UNHCR containers with UN staff helping with immigration, NGO volunteers with neon yellow vest manage...

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