My commitment for refugees
My commitment for refugees has its roots actually here in Iceland: 31 years ago. I was staying as a migrant for a year in Island, working as a physiotherapist in Akureyri. One very important experience during this time was how nourishing and connecting it was to get in real contact and feel welcomed by local people. So, back home, whenever I met some foreigner in the street looking for help, I usually made contact.
In August 2015 a 5-minute encounter with a young Tibetan woman on the train was the beginning of my voluntary commitment for the cause of refugees. In a short conversation I was told in broken English that the young woman with the two little bags was not, as I had first presumed, a tourist, but a refugee on her way to the shelter she had been allocated to, situated in a small town in the East of Switzerland. Quickly I passed her my mobile number before I got off the train – just in case. Three weeks later she really did call me, and we fixed a date for me to visit her. I became aware that I had absolutely no clue on the subject of refugees! So I contacted the managing director of the shelter to find out whether I was allowed to visit her, whether it would be possible to take her out… The first visit at her place with subsequent hike was to be followed by many further encounters until now.
Out of this experience I was much more open to the concerns of refugees, and I searched the internet for information about Swiss refugee politics.
In February 16, together with my husband, I spent a week as a volunteer in a transit centre on the Balkan route in Serbia. There we gave out tea, soup and clothes round the clock. The people were exhausted, and in rainy weather soaked to the skin from their strenuous trek along marshy paths. Now the Balkan-Refugees took shape and face for us.Humans of all walks of life of many different countries and social classes. With some of them conversation was possible in English, with others there was only body language for communication – and empathy and sometimes humor.
Very deeply touched by this experience I was now following the news around refugees from a very different perspective. And I decided to become active locally. I followed the charities’ advice to join an already existing project.
Thus I found “Horizons”, a project of a church in our village – open to all – with the goal of integrating the locally residing refugees into the village community. The weekly café “Horizon” offered German courses, refreshments and socializing.
In this context I taught German for beginners in small groups, occasionally also individual private lessons at my practice. Twice I accompanied asylum seekers to their second interrogation at the Federal Secretariat for Migration in Berne.
In our village of 4000 inhabitants, we had at that time 16 young men and 2 young women at the age between 18 and 30, two families and one couple, coming from Erithrea, Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. Most of them had just arrived in 2016, all waiting for their second interrogation, hoping to be accepted as refugees. During that time they had a place to sleep, a little money and tutoring from the government. But they were neither allowed to work nor to get regular intensive German lessons, and this for up to three years.
By now, all of them got their answers. Some are accepted as refugees, some just for the time being. Three of them had to leave the country. Most of them are now learning German in an official German course and some could start professional training. So now I sometimes meet some of them for a cup of tea, and I take time to be with them to listen what is going on in their lives with friends, families, schools, difficulties and dreams.
Occasionally there are also invitations: from the refugees to us “teachers”; then there is a huge table laden with the most wonderful food from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Erithrea… cooked by the refugees as a “thank-you” to us. These are times when peace on Earth can really be felt!
A lecture for the 6th Meeting of the European Council of Grandmothers in Island
I am Grandmother Helga from Germany. I am happy to be here in Iceland together with my European Grandmother Sisters, and I am happy to meet all of you. Our topic for this council is PEACE, and I am sure that this is one of the most important issues for all of us in these days and it is no coincidence that our council takes place in Iceland just in the time of the UN-WORLD PEACE DAY.
It is my part today to talk about our inner peace, our peace of mind.
Why shall we think about inner peace?
Many years ago, I thought about what I can contribute to the goal PEACE in the world! I felt overwhelmed by this immense challenge! I was about to give up, but I read about Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other great peace campaigners and I understood that peace is not a state but a process.
“There are no roads to peace, peace is the way”. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Then I understood that PEACE in the world starts with us. That means I have to find peace inside of me. I remembered the cosmic principles of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece. One of them is “As the outer world, so the inner world – as the inner world, so the outer world.” The Dalai Lama: “If you do not know inner peace, you will not find it in your encounter with others.” These examples may be enough for the moment to explain, why I decided to think about inner peace, work on it and share my experiences with you. Now – a little break! Although I know, that there is only little time!
Please -Take your time!
Close your eyes!
Take a deep breath and exhale! Four times!
Find your own rhythm now, be quiet and relax!
Imagine you are at your favourite place in the nature!
Realize that you are connected to everything!
Stay there and enjoy this moment until I will call you back!
– two minutes –
Come back and open your eyes!
Sometimes it needs not more to find our inner peace:
Take some time!
Be aware of your breath!
Be just in this moment!
Be in the nature!
Sometimes it is much more difficult to find our inner peace. There are many reasons for this.
One reason is that we are angry with ourselves. We are very often angry with ourselves, one aspect of us fights against the other as if we have war within us.
We have to understand, perceive and accept that we do not really value ourselves.Most of us have a deep fear of rejection. That is why we try to live up to expectations of others and our own. For many of us this means a tremendous effort and causes great stress.
Mostly the cause for this is in the past. That means, that we have to look into our childhood, sometimes even deeper – into the childhood of our parents or grandparents- to understand all the suppressed feelings, deep mental injuries we all have suffered. Children are very vulnerable, and dependent to their parents, they need their love. When parents have had to suppress their feelings, they are unconsciously afraid, that these feelings, especially deep pain, come into their consciousness.
Where fear is there cannot be love, because fear makes our body tight and love needs space.
So almost all of us have a lack of love. We have many ways to deal with it. Most ways do not lead to inner peace, because most of us do not understand that many of our activities and efforts have something to do with our need for love. That means that we have to look into our childhood and to our ancestors to see, understand, feel and accept the hidden wounds, pain and anger to heel them. Then we can learn to forgive our ancestors and ourselves. When we forgive, we are connected. This forgiveness, our connection leads to INNER PEACE!
My local, weekly commitment with a woman seeking asylum in Switzerland – a win-win-situation
The village of 2000 inhabitants where I live, was assigned to care – among others – for a family of six people from Afghanistan by the federal authorities. I have known the family now for over two years. The eldest ofthe four children is twelve, the youngest 3 years old. The father has recently been allowed to do manual work for the community and to earn a little money.
Every week I study with the mother, who is taking two different German language courses, offered free of charge by volunteer organisations. We do her homework together. She was illiterate, and I am astonished how quickly she gets along with everything.
Again and again I also try to sum up for her the letters the children bring home from school and kindergarten. I practise with her to read the calendar, dates and appointments and the time. Great trust and love has grown between the two of us. She calls me her Swiss mom, and grandmother towards the children. Every time, I leave their flat gratified. From the start it was clear to me that I wanted to work with the mother, for, if a mother is psychically stable, the children profit most directly. After the death of her mother, this woman had to work in a factory sewing clothes, when she was only ten years old.
In our village we have a small group of mostly young people looking afterthe asylum seekers. We advise each other and provide the necessary materials. Somebody was able to find a sewing machine for my “Afghan daughter”.Now she is sewing for her children and girl-friends and is very happy about it.
My motivation for this engagement is my belief that an open, warm new home should be offered to these people, who were forced to leave their homeland and become refugees. In this way I can personally “better” theofficial Swiss position, which is a compromise with those Swiss people who fear the loss of jobs and the Islamic religion. They believe that in oursmall, closely populated country there is no room for more people, meaning first of all refugees and the costs they cause for the state. (I am sure you all know this!)
Peace work in The Sami community
Boures, (good day). I am Beate, a Sami and very proud of it. Today I will tell you about my grandmother, Henrikke. She was the daughter of Henrik and Elida. They were immigrants from Finland, leaving their country behind in the 1860’s when there was no food to get for the children. They had no choice but to leave if they wanted to give their children any future. So, they packed the little they had and put it on their backs and led the children by the hand to Ruija- Norway. The ocean-land where there were said that the fish was so rich that you could go down and put your hands into the water and catch it. For a person starving that is a great fairy-tale. And on the long walk to Norway they longed for the fish.
But of course, leaving everything behind they could only bring what was close to their heart; the language, the culture, the way of living.
When they came to Norway and settled along the coastline, they could not hunt for the reindeer anymore. They had to adapt to a new way of living, now being farmers and fishermen. What they didn’t know when they left their country was that in the 17th Century the Norwegian Church had been very sceptical to the Sami people. The priests could not understand the Sami language, so they banned them. They looked at them and they could see the ritual drums with very strange marks on them and they thought the Sami was the devil’s people. So, my great grandparents were met with a sceptical attitude. An attitude can be inherited through many generations forward, so it was not an easy life to come to Norway as a Sami. They had to blend in as soon as possible, and even up to these days it is normal to make fun of the Sami. And since you form your identity by the way society is looking at you, the Sami learned to look down on themselves. They were not considered as good as the Norwegians.
When my grandmother was born in 1908, her family lived in a very small house. If you stretched out your hands you could reach the walls on each side of the house. It had a floor made of earth, and a ladder up in the one-room house where all the 13 children were sleeping together with their parents on a half-roof room.
In 1924 my great grandmother started to cough. She got a cough that would not stop and the doctor came. He shocked his head and said it was tuberculosis- the white plague. Everyone looked at my grandmother, their eyes said; – It is you who are going to look after her till she dies. At that time, they thought that was a disease that you got because you were not sanitary enough. So now my grandmother had two stigmas. One she was a Sami and two she was not clean enough. And she was left with her mother in that little house. Her father left with the rest of the children, but every day he would come to the steps with food. And he would knock on the window and then he would step back. My grandmother would open the window and talk to him. During the sickness, and everyone knew the end of it; no-one came to visit. Not her sibling, not her husband, not her children, not the neighbours. None at all came. WHEN Elida died the whole family was scattered with the winds. My grandmother did not want to be a Sami anymore. She didn’t want to be considered dirty and she didn’t want people to look down on her. So, the rest of her life she kept her Sami identity a secret, as many other Sami- due to the Norwegian suppression.
So, I did not know until I was 40 that I was a Sami.
Today we have a big invasion of immigrants wanting to come to Norway and other countries. My heart bleeds for them- and specially for the children coming alone. They need a warm embrace and friends in this strange land. They don’t come because they want to, they come out of pure necessity. So we need to give a thought to these children and families and meet them with open arms and not like the Norwegian met the Sami two generations ago.Let us learn from history. Let us embrace them and tell them that a stranger is just a friend you yet don’t know.
Text Rojbin Khalaf, Syria
If you want to create a weapon, think about how many children, mothers, men and youngsters will die. Planting a flower, wouldn’t that be better? That would make our future better. Let us live together in peace.
What is peace anyway?
Oh, it’s just a word…
No, it’s not just a word!! Peace means that we live together. Peace means that we do not make a difference between rich, poor, black, or white. A human being is a human being after all! But you do make a difference… Let us live in peace and create a good future.
Take down your weapons. Pick a flower or pick up a pen, so that life will get better.
Let us live together in peace.