My experience of the bearing witness retreat on Lampedusa in 2016 was in many ways a turning point in my life.
The direct contact with the concrete evidence of the mass suffering of people fleeing their unsafe, but loved, home country became very tangible, became a lived experience instead of a distant news report. In that year we all felt, standing on that rocky island in the Mediterranean, that what had happened so far was just the beginning. Indeed, various conflicts in the world have led since to waves of refugees to Europe that few people could have imagined.
It was equally touching to speak to those on Lampedusa that had been involved in rescue operations of refugees shipwrecked at their coast, shipwrecked often on purpose by the people traffickers. The compassion of the inhabitants of Lampedusa for those that arrived from far away was for me a warm experience compared to the hostile reactions of the population of many European countries towards refugees.
Our zen peacemakers group, under the spiritual guidance of Frank de Waele, provided me with a safe home when we shared our experiences in the not-knowing circle meetings, and whenever we spend time together during the meals, meditations, meetings, walks, and ceremonies.
The whole experience has led for me to deep understanding and wisdom about conflict and refugees, while still not knowing often what to do, and lasting personal friendships. I am looking forward to renew this experience on the Ecoretreat in Germany in 2022.
More about Ruud Baanders see on his website: https://www.mahakaruna.org.uk
Picture by Ruud Baanders