An online campaign by global citizens movement Avaaz.org to nominate Greek islanders for the Nobel Peace Prize has garnered huge support with over 6,50,000 people signing up.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Monday joined over 230 academics from 111 universities in supporting the call for Greek islanders to be considered for this prestigious award.
Nobel Laureate Economist Sir Christopher Pisaridis, Professor Margaret MacMillan from Oxford University as well as Professor Anthony Giddens from the London School of Economics are among those who have signed the nomination.
The campaign called â€śAegean Solidarity Movementâ€ť includes over 16 groups and individuals from 9 islands and was submitted to the Nobel Prize committee on Sunday, a day before nominations closed. It says, â€śthe worst humanitarian crisis since World War II has been dealt with so far through the unprecedented, spontaneous mobilizations of ordinary, largely-anonymous people.â€ť
In support of the campaign, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said, â€śThe manner in which ordinary residents of the Greek Islands rallied to provide for an estimated 900,000 refugees last year was quite extraordinary. Just imagine 900,000 visitors in desperate need arriving at the door of your reasonably modest establishment. Hungry, exhausted and in a state of acute emotional distress... They don't speak the same language as you or ascribe to the same cultural or religious beliefs. What do you do? You open the door. Incredible!â€ť
The campaign, which was started by Alkmini Minadaki, an architect and Avaaz member from Crete, has since become the biggest ever online petition in Greek history. She said, â€śAcross the islands, everyone from fishermen, housewives, pensioners and teachers have opened their arms and homes for the refugees who have landed with nothing. Their actions have drowned out the fear and racism and reminded us that weâ€™re one and united in our humanity.â€ť
Of the 900,000 refugees who arrived in Europe last year, over eighty per cent of the refugees came via boats to Greece. Avaaz members in Greece have been delivering aid to the islands and campaigning for Europe to open its borders.
Matina Katsiveli, Volunteer of the Leros Solidarity Network said, â€śThe action of the islanders is proof that humanity is very much alive and there are healthy values in our societies. For us, the biggest prize is the smiles of the people that we help every day.â€ť
For the last 18 months, Avaaz members have played a key role in helping refugees on the islands. A mission of Greek Avaaz volunteers delivered thousands of sleeping bags and hygiene kits to recently arrived refugees as well as helped rescue over 200 unaccompanied children arriving on the islands. This winter, hundreds of Avaaz members paid for refugee accommodation to be completed on Leros island which offered shelter to hundreds of people a day.
Nobel Laureate Sir Christopher Antoniou Pissarides said, "Innocent people are desperately seeking a way out of the hell of Syria to restart their lives, children are drowning in our seas and our political leaders are watching and still arguing about numbers, about fences, about registration documents and passports, about Dublin and Schengen."