This true story began many years ago. A friend while traveling with his family in Greece had come across a Kurdish refugee camp. There were 600 refugees and four water taps, garbage was everywhere and there was little or no organisation. Worst of all there was no doctor or clinic – some arrived with gunshot wounds and stories of atrocities abounded…
He was not a doctor, just a male nurse, but he couldn’t ignore their plight. Holiday adventure forgotten they stayed on to help making a tenuous living singing in restaurants over the weekends (he had a great voice). His pregnant wife had just had a baby and with two other small children they needed help urgently. That’s why we went.
The day I entered the city of squalid tents the Greek authorities decided to move the whole embarrassing populace out of the camp. It had been allocated in winter, now it was summer and well, it was a tourist spot. Their idea of relocation I heard was to bus them out to the most remote of places and leave them there. I watched my first episode of non-violent civil disobedience that day as men, women and children sat blocking the road to prevent the buses from leaving – after several hours the refugees finally won.
But it’s not of this I would speak, nor of our tough lifestyle, or even our adventures (like hiding a friend on the run from a Kurdish faction, he having witnessed their murder of his cousin).
There’d always been a strange affinity between the Muslim Kurds and my Christian friend, epitomized when I spent an hour in the tent of a famous Kurdish actress. (People think refugees are poor labourers. It’s not true, they are mostly businessmen or professionals – the only ones with enough money to get smuggled across the borders etc.) We had to communicate with our hands (neither speaking the others language) but she was an actress and being bad at languages I was used to mime etc. She “explained” how her sons had been tortured to death (I heard many heart rending stories this was another). I noticed a crucifix propped against the tent wall and “asked” if she were a Christian. She explained she was Muslim, but put it there in respect for my friend and all he’d done for them.
The most exciting story happened soon after I left. Wealthy restaurant owners, tired of the refugees interfering with their tourist trade set fires to destroy the camp. Everyone knew who did it but it couldn’t be proved, fires are an occupational hazard in the hot, dry Greek summers.
All looked on terrified as the giant flames leapt towards them. Fanned by a strong wind, tinder dry trees exploded into walls of flame. There was nothing to defend them just a wire fence. All around was chaos, people running and screaming but a small group of calm individuals held hands with my friend to pray, Muslim and Christian alike.
The wind ceased, reversing its course to later destroy not only the tourist restaurants but the scenic forests that made it a resort. All gazed in awe at the blackened devastation just inches from the fence, the parched grass within the camp unharmed. God loves all His children.