We returned to Athens after our time in Thessaloniki and were hosted Malcolm Bradshaw and Rebecca Boardman. Father Malcolm serves as the Anglican Chaplain in Athens and Rebecca is responsible for co-ordinating the Anglican church’s response in Greece to the refugee crisis.
They welcomed us along with representatives from a number of the agencies who were working directly with the refugees: the Salvation Army were providing practical support; a lawyer was implementing a programme with the UNCHR for the reunion of families; Apostoli (the largest food relief organization in Greece) which had set up a hostel for refugee boys between the ages of 11 and 18; Samaritan’s Purse who again provide practical support; and Damaris, a safe house for victims of sex trafficking.
We learnt about the absolute heroic efforts that the Greek people are making as they respond to the needs of refugees. We heard concerns shared particularly in relation to issues faced by women as they are drawn into prostitution and about the difficulties encountered by people trying to secure interviews with the authorities to process their applications for asylum.
It was an evening of mixed emotions: admiration for the sterling work that is being undertaken in Greece; despair at the enormity of the problem and paucity of resources; fear for how the experience would impact upon the children of the refugees and concern for those caught up with people traffickers.
Our final morning in Athens was spent visiting some of those projects. The Salvation Army premises were crowded and although the queue of 60 or more people was fairly ordered there was a clear sense of desperation and need amongst the men, women and children.
Large cartons of UHT milk were being distributed along with clothes. At least two couples came needing clothes for babies just born or about arriving imminently.
Time and time again I was reminded of just how much Greece – a country in the middle of its own economic crisis – is doing to help people who are in great need.
I couldn’t help wondering whether we might be able to do just a bit more for our brothers and sisters. Have we really done everything that we are able to do?
Our delegation of twelve women from churches across Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England spent time together reflecting theologically on our experiences.
However, the overriding scriptural image for me came from Christ himself when he declared:
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 40)
Rev Judith Morris is the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales.
Photos: Esme Allen