I am always posting nice pictures of a nice city, and on the search for nice shots to reblog, I often dwell through pics of others here on Tumblr, some telling me the prettiest stories about international tourists smoking weed and feeling really great about it. But as I am living here now, I also see things around me, that are not always as easy to take or understand or to build an easy opinion about. Just like at any other place in the world.
Some time ago, I saw in the news that they had cleared away a camp of “asielzoekers”, asylumsearchers, somewhere here in Amsterdam. The refugees that mostly come from Africa and lived in a tent camp, cannot “legally” stay in the Netherlands and should leave the country. However, there have nowhere to go.
Because the circumstances in the camp were getting worse, authorities sent the refugees away. I read that they were given the possibility to find shelter in an institution for the homeless until January. Many refused, since they feel they need to have a home and a country first to become homeless (well, this is very “easily” put and I do not claim any political correctness here).
A week ago or so I got a letter from the community, Amsterdam West. It was headlined with “Situation Saint Josephchurch” and stated that about 90 “uitgeprocedeerde” refugees have been kicked out from their camp at Notweg. Three days later, 80 people moved in in the Saint Joseph Church. I googled the address and figured it is litterally around the corner of my place. What followed were some sentences of “we will bring this in order and undertake further measures if needed. We hope you are hereby informed, you can call xxx and email email@example.com…”
I was quite astonished by both the fact that the refugees were just around the corner in an empty church without any “belongings” and the weird cold wording of the letter that had been sent out to the whole neighborhood and was signed by the mayor, Eberhard van der Laan. It was also issued on December 5, the Sinterklaas evening. A day that might be just the biggest holiday in Holland. It celebrates Saint Nicolaus of Myra, with all the giving, warmth, love and family wahwah we all enjoy on Christmas. Oh the irony!
However, I must admit, I didn’t think too much about it anymore until we got a flyer in the mail today. It was a group picture of about 25 people and it said “We, the new neighbors from the Vluchtkerk (refugee church), are happy to welcome you in our new temporary home.” So they invite us to their housewarming on Sunday, there will be soup and bread and they’re happy to tell their story!
What a contrast to the letter of the mayor! As I started some research on the website and their Facebook page and Twitter, it turns out, that these people have been helped a lot already by neighbors and others. So much, they are now donating all the clothes they do not need to another institution! And I didn’t notice a thing.
It is a truly “beautiful” story, those who seek shelter in Christmas time, just like this couple from this Bible story - you might know about it - find it in an abandoned church named Saint Joseph!!!
We can help, bring milk, juice and socks, we can also send some Christmas cards in French, English and Arabic, if this will make them a bit more happy -
but what will be after that?