CROSSING THE SEA OF DEATH by Carol P. Christ


carol p. christ photo michael bakasI am washing wet clothes cast off by refugees who crossed the Sea of Death, the new name for channel only 4 nautical miles wide that separates Turkey and Lesbos. A tiny pink long-sleeved shirt with a boat neck, for a girl, size 3 months. The channel was relatively safe in the spring and summer, even though people were pushed into black rubber dinghies wearing illegal life jackets that would not float. A pair of leggings with feet, grey with pink, orange, brown, white, and blue polka-dots, to be worn over diapers. North winds have made the journey treacherous.

I am not on the front lines, pulling wet children alive and dead from the sea. I think my heart would break. Tiny black stretch pants with nylon sequined bows at the knees, size 2 years. My friends were in the harbor when an overcrowded fishing boat collapsed, throwing 300 people into the sea. Two pairs of children’s underpants, one navy blue, the other turquoise. They pulled babies from the waves and tried to revive them. Small stone-washed blue jeans decorated with rhinestones, for a little girl. They were wet and cold. Their clothing was removed. They were wrapped in blankets. Red knitted leggings with black hearts and white reindeer. Some survived after spitting out the sea’s water. Blue leggings with feet, blue with white and beige stripes, for a boy. The newly donated ambulances do not carry oxygen.

Two days later a group of us meet for lunch at Kalo Limani, the Good Harbor. A tiny grey shirt with green and white stripes, suitable for a boy or a girl. As the others are coming to the table, the owner of the taverna tells two of us in Greek that bodies have washed up in the harbor around the bend from where we are sitting. A fluffy brown and white polyester blanket, suitable for wrapping around a small child or a baby. He asks us not to translate for the others. A nautical striped sweater with a seal balancing a ball on its nose on the pocket, for a child, three or four years. As we are eating, 3 small red fire trucks and a red van from a funeral parlor pass in front of us, then return. A pair of pink leggings to match the boat-necked shirt. An hour later someone remarks that the red van had a black cross painted on it and asks why. An orange sweatshirt, for age four. We tell them.

Thirty bodies are being held in the island’s hospital, because there is no place to bury them. A navy blue shirt with buttons and ruffles, for age five. Two bodies washed up on the beach in Petra with backpacks. A coral zippered jacket that says 21.32 altitude 178 speed, for a boy, age five or six. We don’t know how many bodies are still in the Sea of Death because no one knows how many people were on the boats that sank. A pair of sky blue heavy fleece pants, with the number 3 embroidered on them, for a boy, age five. The people do not stop coming. A blue turtle-neck striped shirt, white, blue, and grey, for age 3.

I do not know who wore these clothes on the crossing. I fold them neatly and sort them by size, to be given to new arrivals. Up to 7000 every day.

*Your help is needed: contact the (Molivos) Starfish Foundation at molyvosrefugees@gmail.com and specify “donate” or “volunteer” in the headline. Also see Starfish-Help for Refugees in Molyvos. From the US, you can donate to the Lesvos Refugee Project, a registered 501c3.

Carol P. Christ lives in Molivos, Lesbos. She leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter).  Her books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology with Judith Plaskow will be released in June 2016 by Fortress Press, while A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess will be published in the spring by FAR Press. Explore Carol’s writing. Photo of Carol by Michael Bakas.

 

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Categories: Activism, Ethics, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Ethics

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24 replies

  1. Carol, this post of yours is potent and poignent and tears at my very soul…

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  2. My heart breaks too, Carol, for the children, for their parents, for all of you residents of Lesvos and the otherr islands, doing your best and giving your all, to step in and help where the entire European government has failed so utterly.

    I will go now to light a candle for all of these lost lives, in the chapel of the martyrs in Canterbury Cathedral and by the Black Madonna in the crypt. Today is All Souls’ Day so there will be many other candles there, I am sure. I will also go to the riverbank and light incense in remembrance, outside under the sky, in nature’s cathedral, and hope that the network of waters on the earth will transmit my prayers of compassion to those crossing the water between Turkey and Greece.

    Also this morning, my friend Shakeh sent me links to news and footage of the recent ceremony at Westminster Abbey honouring the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, who have now been declared saints. Many of the Armenians who tried to flee the 1915 genocide took the same routes from Asia Minor (today Turkey) to Greece as the Syrian & other refugees are taking today. I wonder, 100 years from now, if there will be ceremonies and commemorations of those currently losing their lives in the great exodus of our time?

    In April of this year I wrote on FAR about Shakeh Tchilingirian’s Circle of Life ceremony, where Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish, Greek, Assyrian and other nationalities joined hands and danced to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and all victims of atrocities around the world.

    I know there is so much to do to bring an end to war and the needless grief it causes, but I am glad to see these tiny sparks of light, compassion and hope, even in bastions of patriarchal religion like Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral – where people are invited to pray for the refugees at the end of every service, every day. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has done much to speak out against media language which de-humanises migrants and refugees. He’s also openly criticised the British government for not helping more, and has offered to put the resources of the Church of England at the service of immigrants who need shelter and other support. I take heart.

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  3. Here’s an uplifting quote from a Facebook page called Help for Refugees in Molyvos —
    http://www.facebook.com/HelpForRefugeesInMolyvos/?fref=nf

    “Amidst the chaos and tragedy of this week, we also heard a beautiful story that uplifted us all here. A 93 year old lady lives in the village of Molyvos. She came here to Lesvos when she was only 1 year old, as a refugee from Turkey. She was sitting in her house when she heard lots of noise outside. She asked her son what was happening and he explained that there were some refugees outside that had been rescued by the coastguard and were waiting for their bus to Mytilini where they could get their papers. She immediately set to work in the kitchen and made some delicious cheese pies which she then gave out to all the people so they wouldn’t get on the bus feeling hungry. Kindness truly does make a difference.”

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  4. Such a moving article.

    Walking in the desert near the Mexican border, I have often found clothes belonging to migrants crossing the border into the U.S., artifacts of their struggle.

    Is there any way we can help that you would recommend? I am aware of sponsorship programs for these refugees in Canada, but none that I could find in the U.S. Are there charities you would recommend?

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  5. Heart, breaking. Thank you for the information on donation.

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  6. As usual, brava! Your detailing of the children’s clothes is heart-breaking. I’m sure your heart was breaking as you washed these clothes and wrote about them. My heart is breaking as I read about the brave people who seem to have no other way to find the elusive safety they seek.

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  7. My heart breaks every news report I hear about the Sea of Death; my eyes cry tears reading your words and picturing the sun-kissed Molivos harbor littered with bodies of dead children. The horrors of war continue and ever the women washing away the pain and suffering. Thanks for the info on donating.

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  8. Bless you, Carol. Bless you all.

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  9. Reblogged this on pviljoen and commented:
    Raising awareness – if anyone can help, please follow the Molivos Starfish link please.

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  10. I’ve reblogged this and posted it to Linkedin. Hope it helps. It’s just terrible.

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  11. Reblogged this on StrangeLander2015 and commented:
    The story of refugees fleeing their war-torn homelands and crossing the sea to come to the relative safety of Europe (where they face discrimination in countries like Hungary, but are being shown kindness in some places in Greece, Turkey, and recently, Germany) is most heartbreaking news I’ve been following over the past several months. This post speaks to some of the heartbreak. So much tragedy in such small clothes!

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  12. So much heartbreak and tragedy! Thank you for sharing this. Have reblogged, via https://pviljoen.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/crossing-the-sea-of-death-by-carol-p-christ/
    Thanks pviljoen!

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  13. Thank you for writing this carol. I have thought of you often, and wondered what it must be like to live so close to this human tragedy. I have wept for the refugees and their forced exodus. Your piece makes it even more tangible. Thank you for including the donation information. Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace, peace, peace.

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  14. “Imagine all the people living life in peace, Oh oh you may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you will join us, and the world will live as one.” John Lennon

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  15. Carol, I’m at a loss for words to describe the impact of your experience on me. I tried to share it on FB but it didn’t seem to go through. I’ll check again today. There is a group of churches here in Nanaimo who are sponsoring refugees. Our new government is also more welcoming than the Harper gang was. Most of all, what can we do to stop producing a situation that creates refugees? What is being done doesn’t seem to be working.

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  16. I am at a loss for words. Heartbroken. Wish I was still there to help. I have sent socks and raincoats. Australia is about to welcome it’s first group of Syrian refugees. Thank you xxx

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