The large influx of migrants coming into Europe has alarmed many municipalities who in one way or another are offering asylum in their facilities. One of these is located in Seeheim, Germany. The structure was a nursing home and is no longer in use therefore easily available to families who have crossed all of Eastern Europe to get to Germany and carry out their wishes to emigrate from Syria. This structure could house one hundred people for the most part composed of families with many children in tow. A small group of workers from the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) traveled to the area, met the families and exchanged not only the impressions but also desires, needs, and some recommendations.
The first impact was very positive. "A family welcomed us with open arms and invited us to come in to just visit," said Corrado Cozzi, Communications Director for the SDA Inter-European Region (EUD). The family consists of father, mother and 6 children, one of whom was born just as the family arrived in Germany. The parents are relatively young. The father is a doctor who worked in Syria and had a profitable business there.
Both have decided to escape from Syria because of the precarious situation in which they lived, having so many small children. As they recounted their exodus and how they survived, it is understandable the joy they feel to have arrived in Germany especially being responsible for some very small children.
These people will wait for a residence permit, a document that would allow them to stay in Germany. And this will happen only after an interview in the appointed offices, where validity of their documents will be verified.
Speaking with other migrants, it was confirmed that there are different ways to get to Northern Europe. Of course by paying extra, you arrive faster. But most do not have sufficient available financial resources, even though to consider such a trip they still would have to have significant financial support. Their goal is to get documents, residence permits, and then start to work; they are not worried about returning to their country, only if things get back in order, if Syria were to go back to being a country of peace, as they have described, a country of dialogue, where different religions can live together - Muslims, Christians and other forms of religion. If the country were to return the way it was, they would be willing to go back.
"Talking to the children however, their smiles tell us that they feel comfortable in the situation they find themselves in," says Elsa Cozzi, EUD Children's Ministry Director. "It was a bit difficult to communicate because we didn't speak the same language. We communicated with a bit of German translated into English and sometimes in French, but the language was not a barrier – we connected with smiles and hugs, we showed and shared much affection."
Elsa Cozzi had the idea to bring some special little gifts, to welcome these children. Very simple gifts, appreciated and naturally done, which we adults sometimes are not able to do, and that is to share the joy of receiving a gift with others who are not present; by word of mouth soon other children were also able to come to the courtyard and receive even a simple gift.
Radio AWR (Adventist World Radio, led by Daryl Gungadoo, Yves Senty, AWR Europe and Shelley Freesland, Communication AWR USA) had the opportunity to interview some migrants. Their stories tell of a journey that stretched their strength to extremes.
The passage from Turkey to Greece was not very easy, "these stories are not to be made public for reason of prudence and protection" says Daryl Gungadoo. "These are things that we all see on television but, to hear them told by someone who experienced them firsthand, certainly has a completely different effect."
These men and women, with their children, talk about the difficulties they encountered in taking the long road that divides Syria from Germany, but also Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq .... But they talk about these with a certain peace; they feel safe and far away from the serious challenges they faced during the journey.
Just think of the most obvious dilemmas such as food, rest, natural needs, rain, mud, discomfort, the fear of not making it. "To meet the needs, facing the necessities, you must intervene with strong will power, to achieve the goal set", smiled the person we interviewed.
Having to visit the island of Lesbos in Greece, to assess the migrant condition who land on the island, we asked for some recommendations for the refugees who just land here. They suggested we simply tell them to muster all their forces for the long grueling trip they will face, avoid certain areas, follow the flow of people and to take courage, with the thought that soon they will reach their goal.
As we listen, it is hard to understand how difficult this path has really been. It's clear that those who have experienced this first hand fail to depict just how tough it is using only words. The person who told us this terrifying experience is a computer technician, also waiting to receive a residence permit and finally to settle in Germany.
A group of young boys, whom we had met before, invited us to play cards with them. These are games that we do not have here in Western Europe. Intrigued, we agreed and they explained the game. We were especially impressed, we do not know whether it was done on purpose or not, but the objectives of almost all card games were aimed at not losing, not winning and crushing the opponent, but simply not losing. It could be a point of reflection: competing to achieve the objectives without having to defeat the opponent.
The Adventist Church in Germany is doing its best to meet these migrants in cities where they are located and where best to offer assistance. More than material needs, people need to talk, to communicate their feelings and emotions, to vent, to share their stories.
Some young people and Adventist Scouts from different locations, are prepared to put on a program for the children in these refugee welcome camps. The recommendation is, in fact, for them to find the time to provide this type of service on an ongoing basis. Corrado Cozzi said, "You do not come here just once, to offer your time listening to these people, what is important is a constant intervention that allows these people not to feel the object of pity, but of respect. They have been and continue to be in a difficult situation; the community should make them understand that they are not a lower class group of people, but people who have lived through a very difficult situation and must be respected in their grief."
We asked one of them what could be an imminent need, and the response was "Winter has started, if we could have some winter clothing, it would be much better. "This is perhaps an appeal to us. Will we be able to organize a chain of collection of winter clothing, and help these people get through the winter more easily?! We don't know. ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) is already at work along the migration route and offering assistance. We hope these individuals will be able to live peaceful family lives, in a cozy home, with decent work and finally be able to leave these struggles behind.