On almost any given day in Athens, Greece, you can find church members volunteering somewhere to help the steady stream of refugees passing through this gateway city to Europe. Whether it’s Filipino or Greek congregations taking turns preparing some 500 portions of food to feed people at a transit camp or a handful of Afghan believers working after dark to unload a 23-tonne container of donated items, the church in Greece has rallied around the refugee crisis.
While the church’s involvement with the refugees arriving in Greece did not start this summer—indeed, Greece has received refugees for over 15 years, 20 by some estimates—”this crisis has tremendously helped the unity of the church,” explained Fotis Romeos, general secretary of the Greek Evangelical Alliance and volunteer pastor of a small Greek congregation.
This summer alone, more than 300,000 of an estimated 400,000 plus refugees entering Europe journeyed through Greece, Fotis said: “From the very first day, all the churches have been mobilised all over Greece.”
Not only Greek congregations have woken up to this opportunity. There are over one hundred migrant churches in the Athens area, about the same number as Greek churches.
“We see churches from different backgrounds, different denominations, different theological structure and administrative structure to come together with the same food packages,” Fotis said. “We may have a church providing 100 dishes, another church providing 200, another organisation providing 300, and all come together just to serve the refugees. That helps create a movement of unity among the people and also a movement of enthusiasm because we see that together we can achieve more. Together, we can be more effective.”
“The refugee crisis only magnified our effort and our work with the churches,” said Gabby Markus, country leader of OM Greece and chair of the steering group for the Evangelical Alliance relief effort. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for the church to serve and build its relationship with the community.