First Greek Evangelical Church in Athens, Greece - Feb.2016
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen...?"
Please find below an update on the activities of the churches within the POLIS network related to the refugee crisis over the past four months.
Exarcheia Church, First Greek & FAROS
It’s more than two months now since we first opened our “day center” in Elpidos St. —which means “street of hope”— right at the heart of Victoria Square, the place most refugees make a beeline for as soon as they get off the boat in Athens. Looking back over the past few weeks, we were initially afraid and skeptical about the whole initiative; both the extent of the needs and the transitory nature of the movements of refugees made the whole task seem like something beyond our means. Eventually, we calmed ourselves down, as we came to the realisation that: “even if it runs for two months it will have been worth the risk”.
In a very short space of time, however, “Elpidos Day Centre” has become one of the most important venues addressing the needs of refugees, specifically families. This is largely due to its location, being less than 60 metres from Victoria Square. We have an average of 40 visitors per day and many times we have seen more than 80 visitors.
Our main focus has been to give relief to the most vulnerable among the refugees: mothers and children. Mothers find a safe environment where our volunteers entertain and embrace their kids, while they themselves —the mothers— find a chance to rest, sometimes even lying down on the floor to sleep for just a few minutes.
At the same time we try to meet their immediate needs by providing toilets —literally the only ones near the square available for them to use for free— power outlets to charge their phones, supplements (snacks, toothpaste and toothbrushes etc.) for the rest of their journey and information about other centres where their needs may be met.
In the last month we have added, gradually, two more services: clothes and a few days of medical care. Both of them have really gone beyond our expectations. We give clothes on a daily basis, especially children’s clothes, and in just two days of providing medical care (general examination doctors, dermatologists and dentists) we served over a hundred people.
Our future plans are to extend the medical care and rent another space —right next to the existing one— with shower facilities. For the medical care we were happily surprised, last week, when MSF (Doctors Without Borders) knocked on our door and asked us if they could run a Health Clinic in our centre during the hours that we do not operate. They found our facility and our setup ideal for partnering with us. On the first Monday of February we will host the first day of this Health Clinic, which will operate every day for four hours. Our hope is that by the end of February we will be able to offer showers in our new space.
We are thankful to God, and to you all, as through the Elpidos Day Center, we were able to address the needs of the refugees in love, but also in a professional way.
From September onwards, Glyfada Church started serving at the refugee centre in Elliniko (the old airport which has been converted to a makeshift camp), working with the city officials and helping out where needed. The main tasks we undertook were sorting clothes for distribution to the refugees, providing meals and cleaning the facilities. Through this effort, the refuges, as well as the Greek volunteers, became interested in hearing the message of the Gospel with many of them also coming to the church.
Unfortunately, our cooperation with the Government stopped abruptly due to an invalid accusation of proselytism. Despite this, both the refugees and many of the Greek volunteers keep in touch with us by attending our church. Please pray that we will continue to serve this community that God has brought to our doorstep and also that the accusation will be lifted and the truth will come forth!
Finally, Giotis has written some thoughts, reflecting on the theological framework and implications of all the above, especially in light of the fear and suspicion generated in the wake of the Paris attacks. If you would like to read this, you may read and download the article here: "More regarding the refugees..."
If you would like to help or partner with us as we seek to continue and expand these efforts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in Jesus,
Giotis Kantartzis, George Tolias, Alexandros Pipilios & Tim Coomar