A Statement from Stand by me Lesvos.
Stand by me Lesvos considers itself as an organization with the main focus on education. Since 2018 thousands of refugees joined our classes. We strongly believe in the power of education and also know how lot’s of refugees are longing to learn and study while they are awaiting their asylum process. We always followed a very simple, but efficient rule: Education should be neutral, respecting all the various faiths and religions of the camp residents and not force any on them. Lot’s of people fled because they were prosecuted for their beliefs, be it Muslims from Sunni and Shia background, Yazidis, Christians or non-believers. Most of them come from countries dominated by religious intolerance and oppression and they seek refuge in Europe hoping to freely live whatever they believe in. We do respect this and everyone has the right to religious freedom in Europe, but this also includes the right to be free from any religious dominance. In the past years we have faced many attempts of different actors to influence the curricula in our schools and were always very strict: Religion should be respected but stay outside the class rooms. This concept was widely appreciated by our students from all faiths. On the other hand we know that NGOs working on Lesvos come here out of different motivations and we respect them all. We know that various of them have a strong Christian background. One motivation is as good as the other as long as education is not touched. Unfortunately we see some of these organizations taking over more and more responsibility in the field of children’s education in the new camp and we were already approached by refugees who fear there could be attempts to convince them of the superiority of certain Christian faiths over other religions. If one google the background of these organizations one finds a lot of sentences related to missionary motives and calls to spread the word of Jesus worldwide. It is not up on us to judge how they interpret their mission, but we know after years of working in this field that people from Middle Eastern countries, be they Muslims, Yazidis or Christians are very cautious when it comes to any attempt to convince them about the superiority of another religion. Rumors also are spreading fast in the camp. Therefore we want to express our concern about this developments. We truly believe organizations with a religious background should better stick to other fields of humanitarian assistance and try to stay away from educating children in the camps. There are many teachers and professionals on this island, both inside the camp, in Mytilini and in the ranks of other NGOs who are very capable of teaching both in the formal and informal sector. Additionally, we as a Greek organization, find it a bit alarming that some of the religious NGOs do have very close contact to a Greek protestant movement calling itself „Hellenic Ministries“ and claiming that Greece is a „a darkened nation“, because only „1% 1% claim to be born again“, which we read that the majority of our compatriots obviously follow the wrong religion. In contrary we believe in a very tense and difficult situation like we currently live in on Lesvos only mutual tolerance can help keeping this place peaceful. We are grateful for everyone who offers a helping hand, but again we do believe the sector of education should stay totally neutral and far away from any religious teachings. We do not want to create any more tensions, but only express our grave concern about recent developments. Therefore we are keeping this statement general.
Feel free to directly contact us for more information.