Vayigash: Lessons from Joseph’s Behavior by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oParshah Vayigash covers Genesis 44:18 to 47:27.  It involves the reunification of Joseph with his brothers and his father, the immigration of Jacob’s entire family to Egypt and Joseph successfully leading Egypt through famine.  In other words, the parshah provides the backdrop for how the Israelites become slaves in Egypt.

Any mention of women is confined to verses 46: 14-26.  They are not active participants, but are remembered as mothers and (a few) daughters and help explain the size and development of Jacob’s family.  It is most striking that they are mentioned at all as the text is heavily preoccupied with sons.  Nonetheless, according to the account, Jacob’s family has 70 members and a seemingly very small number are women and daughters.

Clearly it comes as no surprise that this text is highly influenced by its patriarchal roots and we could dismiss it for that reason.  Nonetheless, it has become a project of mine in this blog over the past few months to find redeeming qualities and food for thought within these texts.  In other words, despite its sexist pitfalls, there are still holy insights and life lessons as my previous blogs attest. Continue reading “Vayigash: Lessons from Joseph’s Behavior by Ivy Helman”

“Oh For a Pair of Clean Dry Warm Socks” by Carol P. Christ

Stories about refugees in the island of Lesbos (where I live) are no longer front page news. Yet according the United Nations Refugee Agency, 12, 742 refugees arrived here in 2017. This number is equivalent to 15% of the year-around population of the island. Though this number is huge, it does not compare to the estimated 91,506 arrivals in Lesbos in 2016. In January 2018, 7572 refugees are estimated to be stranded in the island waiting for their applications for asylum to be processed. The government-controlled reception center has a capacity of 2000, but up to three times that number are being housed there at any one time, in conditions that must be described as inhumane. It is suspected that “someone” in Greece or the European Union is slowing the asylum process in order to discourage refugees from attempting to enter the EU via Lesbos.

Recently I have begun to work with the Starfish Foundation, a local non-profit helping refugees on the island, using my skills as a writer to help with outreach. Today I share with the FAR community a blog I wrote to contextualize the desperation of the situation the refugees find themselves in.

Think about it. Before you go out walking in town or countryside, you put on a pair of clean socks and then a pair of athletic shoes or boots. Your socks, which you take for granted—except when they get wet—protect your feet from blisters, callouses, and foot infections. Now imagine yourself as a refugee or migrant who has come across the wine dark sea, fleeing war. Your socks and shoes are soaking wet when you arrive. If you are lucky you will be given new shoes and socks, but then what happens?

You are taken to a refugee camp to wait for your asylum papers to be processed. While you are waiting, and it could be months or even a year, what happens to your socks? For sure they will get dirty, for you often have to walk on muddy and even sewerage infected paths in the camp. The toilets are filthy and when you have to use them, you try not to step in the muck, but sometimes you do.

You keep on wearing your socks, because you do not have a second pair. One day you decide to wash them and on that day blisters appear on your feet and become infected. You have always been a clean person, washing socks and underwear and all sorts of clothing for yourself and your family every day. But now you are facing the unknown, without even a clean pair of socks to put on your feet.  You bind up your wounds and pray that your one pair of socks will not be stolen from the wire fence where you hung them out to dry.

There is an urgent need for socks in the refugee camps of Lesvos where thousands of refugees wait to learn if they will be granted asylum.  It is hard for us who take our socks for granted to understand the difference a pair of clean dry socks could make in the life of a refugee.  A pair of clean dry socks could make all the difference in the world.

A plea for 300 pairs of socks for men and women from Euro Relief was one of the first postings on Starfish Foundation’s web page Needs Hub,  established  to connect organizations helping refugees on the island of Lesvos with donors. The request for 300 pairs of socks may soon be answered, but the need for socks in the refugee camps is on-going and immense. And socks are only one of the many things—from baby strollers and wheelchairs to shampoo and toothpaste–that the refugees need. Your gift, whether large or small, really could make all the difference in the world to a vulnerable person who needs your help.

Starfish Foundation is a Greek non-profit organization. Founded at the height of the refugee migration to the Aegean islands, which was called the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, Starfish Foundation works in co-operation with other organizations dedicated to helping refugees and migrants in the island of Lesbos. Please visit Stafish’s web page Needs Hub to learn what you can do. Donate to Starfish Foundation here.


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known writer and educator living in Molivos, Lesbos, who volunteers with Starfish Foundation to assist with writing and outreach. Carol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is  Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. FAR Press recently released A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess. Join Carol  on the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger

Academics and Activism by Ivy Helman

unnamedTwo weeks ago, I spoke at a conference entitled “The Role of Academia and Religious Leaders in Relation to Refugees and the ‘Refugee Crisis,’” in Bratislava, Slovakia.  One of the main questions of the conference was: what role do academics play in the refugee crisis?  Are academics activists?  Many conference presenters and attendees directly linked the two ideas.  However, there were some who voiced their concern as to how in-touch academics actually are with reality and surmised that because of this academics probably weren’t activists. Wait!  What?  How can we not be activists?

On the way to the first night’s dinner, I had a conversation with someone who did not see academics as activists.  Why?  The response I got was that academic research functioned in a way that was largely inaccessible to the public and therefore academic work, academic participation in conferences as well as publishing was, for lack of a better word, unrealistic and impractical.  It would seem that some people are quite convinced that most academics are quite content being situated in that proverbial ivory tower. Continue reading “Academics and Activism by Ivy Helman”

Feminists of Faith, It Is Time to Light Our Lamps by Laura Shannon

Banner at JFK Protests Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Last Saturday morning I boarded a plane at London’s Heathrow Airport. During the ten-hour flight to Miami, I got up several times to ease my back and stretch my legs, observing my fellow passengers with interest and curiosity. I chatted with a Brazilian woman who has lived for 20 years in Switzerland, on her way back to Manaus for a few weeks to help her mother through an operation. I observed the tender care with which a well-dressed woman my age assisted an elegant older lady I took to be her mother, both in neatly pinned headscarves. I enjoyed the mixture of different accents and language I overheard as I strolled around the cabin, flowing like the gentle murmuring of a brook. Here were passengers from India, from Asia, from Africa, from numerous European countries, of all ethnicities, nationalities, religions and colours. This is the melting-pot planet I love to live on.

That flight left at 9 am. If it had departed a few hours later, very likely some of those travellers would have been prevented from boarding or removed from the plane, as happened all over the world after Trump signed his executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria – from entering the United States. The ban applies even to valid visa holders, workers with green cards, dual nationals and legal residents as well as refugees who had gone through the arduous 2-year vetting process and had already been approved. Continue reading “Feminists of Faith, It Is Time to Light Our Lamps by Laura Shannon”

A “Wicked Witch” Discovers Gratitude by Barbara Ardinger

Once upon a time there lived a youngish woman and her husband on a tiny farm outside the capital city. Their life was satisfactory. But when el presidente declared war on another country, the husband was press-ganged into the army, leaving his wife alone on the farm. Well, alone with a milk cow, a sow, a rooster, a dozen hens, and, on one side of the house, seven tiny graves holding stillborn babies.

The woman was devastated. “What am I going to do?” she asked herself over and over again. “The land here is poor and infertile. I’m poor and infertile.” She was so unhappy, all she could do was mope around. The animals went untended and soon began foraging for food. The seven tiny graves went unweeded. Their one good field went unplowed. The woman stopped taking care of herself.

The war went on and on. She could still hear explosions in the capital city, and now there were people traveling along the road at the edge of her field. Telling herself the explosions and the refugees from the city were none of her business, she just sat inside, feeling sorry for herself.

Time went by, and one morning when the youngish woman happened to look in the mirror (which was cracked), she was both surprised and not surprised by what she saw. Her hair was gray and ragged and dirty. Her face was wrinkled and dirty. Her clothes were wrinkled and dirty.

witch“My goodness!” she said. “I look like an old wicked witch!” She gave this some thought. “Well,” she finally said, “why not? I’m alone and friendless. I have barely enough to eat. I remember hearing about other old women who lived alone. People thought they were wicked witches. Hunh! I guess that’s what I’ll do now. Go into the wicked witch business.” She thought some more. “Well, maybe semi-wicked. My grandmother taught me stuff her grandmother taught her—how to mix potions to heal or kill. How to read the cards. All I need to do is remember those lessons. Then I can go into the wicked witch business.” Continue reading “A “Wicked Witch” Discovers Gratitude by Barbara Ardinger”

Finding Bavarian Ancestors by Carol P. Christ

Bavarian first communion
First communion, Bavaria 1800s

In the past month I have been on a spiritual journey seeking my German ancestors. Six of my 2x great-grandparents were born in Germany, which means I am 37 ½ percent German. Growing up, I was subjected to a form of patriarchal family disciple I came to identify as German, but I was told very little, positive or negative, about my German heritage.

Though I had been researching my family tree for five years when I began my trip to Germany, I had no clue about where in Bavaria the Thomas Christ-Anna Maria Hemmerlein branch of my family originated. While making final preparations before the trip, I learned that German church records are no longer kept in individual churches, but are grouped together in church archives. Some areas also have family records in state archives. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of German records were not destroyed  in the two World Wars. However, many of the German records are not online. Continue reading “Finding Bavarian Ancestors by Carol P. Christ”

Painting Marys, Welcoming Refugees by Angela Yarber

angelaThis holiday season, in the midst of our ever-repeating mass shootings and debates about the welcoming of Syrian refugees, I have seen a meme, a pithy quote, a bumper sticker time and time again amidst my fellow liberals:

“If only we had a seasonally appropriate story about Middle Eastern people seeking refuge being turned away by the heartless.”

Similarly, many have posted pictures of nativity scenes with a tongue-in-cheek quip, “I’m so glad people are placing these lawn ornaments in their yards to indicate that they welcome refugees into their homes.”

Myriad articles have been published encouraging Christians to remember our calling to welcome the refugee, and as an ordained clergywoman, I affirm these thoughts. I believe it is our responsibility, as Christians and particularly as feminist Christians, to welcome the marginalized, the oppressed, the refugee. I am also a strong believer in the separation of church and state, a distinctive imperative both to my Baptist tradition and to my home country of the United States. So, in many ways, it doesn’t really matter politically that my faith tradition teaches me to welcome the refugee because my country is not a Christian nation, but it does matter that the primary symbol of my country—the Statue of Liberty—proclaims boldly and without apology: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Continue reading “Painting Marys, Welcoming Refugees by Angela Yarber”

Drowning in the Flood of Migrants and Refugees by Ellen Boneparth

ellen boneparthOn June 22, 2015 Carol Christ translated an article on the refugee crisis in Greece for her FAR blog. I have been visiting Carol in Lesbos this September and have been observing the crisis close at hand.  This blog describes what Carol and I have witnessed and our reactions.


It’s one thing to read about the flood of migrants and refugees to Greece and another thing to see it.

I have been in Lesbos for ten days this past September and have been stunned by the mass of humanity trying to escape war and destruction in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Continue reading “Drowning in the Flood of Migrants and Refugees by Ellen Boneparth”

THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN GREECE: A TEST OF OUR COMMON HUMANITY by Michael Bakas, translated by Carol P. Christ

Note from Carol Christ: I returned home from the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete a week ago to find my island, Lesbos, and my village, Molivos, overwhelmed with a refugee crisis of enormous proportions. We are a town of about 1000 permanent residents, and I would estimate that 10,000 or more refugees from the wars in Syria and Afghanistan have passed through our village in recent months. Local authorities and volunteers are exhausted, and there is an urgent need for help from the European Union. This week instead of my own blog, I am offering my translation of a moving plea for help from my dear friend and colleague in the Green Party, Michael Bakas, who by the way is himself a feminist.

Refugees in Mytiline 1914-1918There is nothing new about refugees fleeing from war. At the beginning of World War I, more than 50,000 people arrived in Lesbos from the nearby shores of what is now Turkey. At the end of the war many of these refugees returned to Asia Minor, but after the Greek army invaded and was driven back, the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 sent nearly a million refugees to Greece.

Faced with an ocean of refugees flooding the island, the local population was dumbfounded, fearful, and tied up in knots. They shut their doors and averted their eyes: “it was as if a dark cloud of death had descended on their minds, and so they felt nothing. They did not want to see anything or to hear anything that was happening on the other side of their doors.” The end of this story is well-known: with courage and a great will to live, the refugees put down roots and found their way.

In the first decade of the 21st century Lesbos again experienced a wave of refugees who came via Asia Minor. This group, mainly from Afghanistan, came to the island with the hope of putting war behind them. Most of them were held for a year or more in cramped conditions near the capital of Lesbos. This center was closed in 2009 due to the efforts of local volunteers who had alerted European groups to the problem.

But the Greek debt crisis soon followed. For several years, the flow of refugees lessened. When it began to increase at the end of 2012, volunteers from all over the island came together without any government support to provide help. Thousands of refugees were housed in a former campground for children’s holidays, where they were offered clean clothing, blankets, and food, as well as love and compassion.

Lesbos became known as an all-European model for solidarity. Resisting the xenophobia that was growing in Greece and in Europe as a whole, the citizens of Lesbos reached out to the refugees, refusing to listen to those who were promoting hate. The neo-fascist anti-immigrant party known as Golden Dawn gained less support in recent elections in Lesbos than in most of the rest of Greece.

refugee children in LesbosThe good will of the people of Lesbos is currently being tested by the wave of migrants now arriving on our shores. Estimates are that more than 20,000 refugees have arrived in our island alone in the first five months of 2015. There are no systems in place to deal with them. Yes, the European Community has dedicated resources to the “refugee problem,” but most of that has gone into patrolling the borders in hopes of stemming the flood of refugees—not to helping those who arrive on European shores.

Those who arrive in northern Lesbos are being welcomed and fed by volunteers, but the Coast Guard does not have the resources to transport them to the capital city for processing. Thus they are being told—mothers and babies among them—that they must walk 60 kilometers on mountainous roads in summer heat to reach their next destination.

Once they arrive in the capital city, the Coast Guard is not able to accept and process all of them, because the reception center cannot cope with the numbers. Thus, thousands of refugees sit in the harbor, hoping the authorities will arrest them and thus be forced to process them.

The residents of Lesbos are once again beginning to become afraid of the influx of refugees. In the touristic village of Molivos, at the same time that both locals and foreigners are helping the new arrivals, others are saying that “it spoils the vacations of tourists to be faced with seeing so many refugees.”

The situation seems to be more than government officials can cope with. The mayor of the island has been trying to find a place where the refugees can stay while they are being processed. The regional government has not yet lifted its hand. The Minister of Immigration visited the island, but no interventions followed. The European Community has yet to act. The UN and international aid groups have not arrived.

This state of affairs plays right into the hands of the racists and xenophobes. Rumors are spreading about the refugees—lies about diseases they are carrying and threats they pose to local and tourist women. People who in the past have been sympathetic to the refugees and the volunteers are getting fed up. Their pent up anger could lead to violence within our own communities or against the migrants.

At the same time more and more refugees are arriving, sleeping in the streets, relieving themselves without toilets–among them pregnant women, babies and old people, and even disabled individuals—all trying to save themselves from violence in their own countries.

Instead of fighting each other, it is time to get serious about finding a solution to a humanitarian crisis of vast proportions. Lesbos—along with other islands of the Aegean—must be declared an “Emergency Zone.” The Greek government, the European Community, and international organizations must provide resources.
We need arrival centers in northern Lesbos, where the immediate needs of the migrants can be met—including shelter from the sun, food, toilets, blankets, and a place to sleep if necessary. Processing centers adequate to the numbers of refugees need to be opened in the island’s capital. Transport to these centers must be provided. Trained Greek or EU officials must be sent to staff them.* We also need a plan for August when the ferryboats being used to transport the refugees to Athens will be full, and if no alternate plans are made, large numbers of migrants will be forced to stay on the streets or in already crowded centers in the worst of summer’s heat.

It is time for us to move forward–Greeks, Europeans, and migrants together–in the name of our common humanity and in concern for the lives of all human beings on our planet. We also need to work to end the wars and the violence that drives people from their homes and homelands.

*We have just learned that the EU is planning to send a team of officials to assist with processing the refugees.


michael bakas2Michael Bakas is a leader of the Green Party in Lesbos, Greece and has been working for many years with its committee on Human Rights. This call to action was originally published in longer form in Greek on June 16, 2015 on, and was published in English in Green European Journal on June 19, 2015, the International Day of the Refugee.


timothy jay smithTimothy Jay Smith  has been working closely with volunteers in Molyvos and Mytilini to provide for the refugees. If you wish to contribute to these efforts, you can donate through Tim’s account at PayPal: or send a personal check to Timothy Jay Smith in U.S. dollars or Euros (French banks only). Also see his “Mister, They’re Coming Anyway.”


Carol P. Christ leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter).  Carol’s books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess; with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and forthcoming next year, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing.


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