Images and Stories
Creative director Marksteen Adamson met and made friends with many of the refugees he photographed in Lebanon, Calais and the UK. Read some of their stories in his own words.
Station 01 | Alone
Amira left Syria to escape the continual bombardment of her home town, which terrified and traumatised her six young children. As her husband has left her, Amira is raising her children alone in a bedsit in Beirut, Lebanon. Her oldest son, who is ten, can’t go to school because he has to work to provide for the family. Struggling with the day to day reality of their lives, Amira worries about what lies ahead for them all in an unfamiliar country, far from family and friends.
Battling with the crushing emotional and psychological weight of what lay ahead, Jesus chose to do what love required of him. Although he knew that he would have to face the ordeal alone, he had hoped that his friends would at least support him. But when he returned to where he had left them in the Garden of Gethsemane, he discovered they had fallen asleep.
It takes effort to stay alert and ‘awake’, to engage with the stories of torment, anguish and suffering that are often masked by the phrase ‘refugee crisis’. Weariness, preoccupation with our own concerns and apathy can so often get the better of us.
Station 03 | Justice
Forced to flee ISIS because he worked for the British forces, this man and his family are also having to live with the reality of the onset of Alzheimer’s. His hope was that the British, who he considered his friends, would provide refuge. But until now, he has been stuck in the Calais camp, where his health is deteriorating.
When Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the time, there were so many religious leaders who opposed him in it that the chances of him getting a fair hearing were slim.
The trial reflects how justice is compromised if the instruments of law are used to serve narrow interests and powerful elites. In the case of the Iraqis and Afghanis who helped British forces, the question of what is the right thing to do seems clear cut. But decision making is so often clouded by other considerations.
Station 05 | Outlaw
Abdullah, a young Eritrean artist, has worked alongside others to decorate the makeshift church that has become an important focal point in the Calais camp. Amid the bleakness of The Jungle it has provided a haven for people who want to pray and reflect and experience the warmth of community.
Jesus’ enemies appealed to Pilate because as governor he had the power to execute him. The events that unfolded were about the Roman leader’s attempts to keep the peace, avoid stirring up trouble and maintain his position as opposed to doing the right thing. Pilate tried different strategies, attempted to find a way out by presenting Barabbas to the crowd in the hope that they would agree to Jesus’ release.
During all of this, Jesus said very little, but what he did say suggests he was operating according to a different set of rules and values. What defines us? At a time when the authorities are seeking to tag refugees and otherwise put a question mark over their identity, the churches, theatres, cafés that have sprung up in the camps are a symbol of creative resistance, a sign that people have the potential to move to a different rhythm, to be something other than what the authorities dictate.
Station 06 | Humiliation
Karzan, a Kurdish refugee from Iran, wants desperately to be able to look after his family. He has felt keenly the humiliations of being a refugee, of existing in a no man’s land, of being stripped of his identity, of not being able to speak the language of the country where he longs to bring his wife and young family to live. He’s faced insults and violence, closed borders and closed doors. But he’s endured, learnt a new language and found a home for his family. Karzan now lives in the UK and is waiting for his wife and seven-year-old son to arrive from Tehran after four years of being separated.
Together, he and I chose this concept using barbed wire to best represent the trials and tribulations he has endured in recent years as a refugee living in the UK.
The crown of thorns was an ironic mockery, part of a ritual of humiliation and violence that was worse than any animal would receive. Yet it was Jesus’ actions and his choices while enduring such torture that would ultimately define him.
Refugees are humiliated and diminished in many ways, from the language we use, to the building of fences, the use of barbed wire and tagging. In spite of this, many, like Karzan, are determined to overcome the obstacles they face and shape their own destiny. In another context, theirs might be told as inspirational stories of triumph over adversity.
Station 08 | Compelled
Two men from completely different backgrounds and traditions who have formed a remarkable and unlikely friendship. They have both suffered a great deal in recent years - one was seriously injured in a car accident when he stopped to help a driver whose car had broken down, the other has been the victim of a violent attack. Thrown together by circumstances, they have become the best of friends and have supported one another on the road to recovery.
Exhausted and close to death, Jesus could not go on, so Roman soldiers ordered Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross. One of the crowd until that point, Simon didn’t have much choice but to do what he was ordered to do. The situation may have been beyond his control, but later accounts suggest that this was to be a life-changing experience for Simon and future generations of his family.
Living in constricted circumstances, in situations not of their choosing, refugees have found lasting friendships. Others can’t resist the call to be good neighbours, travelling to the camps as volunteers, opening up their homes and communities to people in need.
Station 12 | Family
In a flat in Birmingham, a mother holds a photograph of the two teenage children she longs to see again. A criminal gang in Iraq murdered her husband by beheading him - and left his head on the doorstep of the family home. After the same gang kidnapped one of her children, and held him for three days, Salma fled, arriving in Syria in 2011. When fighting there escalated, she fled again with her young family to Turkey and then paid traffickers who transported them to the UK in freezing conditions in a truck.
Her teenage son and daughter were living with their grandmother all this time, but when she died, they set off to find their mother. They got as far as Calais, where they are still living – alone and desperate to be reunited with their mother and the rest of their family. All the families’ documentation was lost when their house in Iraq was destroyed, and the mother has no proof that they are her biological children.
In one of his final acts, Jesus bound together his mother Mary and his friend John as mother and son, knowing that they would need each other’s love and support. We seem instinctively to understand the importance and value of family. Is there a way that we can extend this awareness towards all families and be willing to let them be reunited, or create new networks of support and friendship for those left without a family?
Don't miss the exclusive follow-up, "The Making of The Stations", in the May issue of Premier Christianity. Request a free copy.