Overwhelmed… in a word, that’s how I’ve felt this last week. The need is overwhelming. Last month, the UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency) described the refugee situation here as “a humanitarian crisis.” This is the first time an EU country has ever had such a distinction. And it’s not just the need that makes the situation overwhelming – not just the lack of food, the lack of housing, the lack of support – it’s also the numbers. Officials believe that approximately 200 asylum seekers (some estimates double this number) are crossing over from Turkey to Greece EVERY DAY. And eventually, almost all of these refugees make their way to Athens. If you strolled through certain neighborhoods in central Athens, you would find it hard to believe that you were in Greece. As you might imagine, some locals (both Greeks and more established immigrants from Eastern Europe and Albania) have taken exception to these changes – not desiring their neighborhood to turn into a Little Kabul. Sadly, some have resorted to violence. Neo-Nazi groups have randomly attacked some asylum seekers. Some asylum seekers, who were living in a neighborhood square, were pushed out by local residents, fed-up with their presence.
A Norwegian filmmaker recently released a very telling mini-documentary (20 minutes) on the subject. Although it is certainly sad and disturbing, I highly recommend it, if you want to get an accurate picture of the tensions here. It can be found on YouTube: The Battle for Attica Square (embedding has been disabled, so I am not able to post it here).
Please pray. Pray for our refugee friends. Pray for our ministry. Pray for our team. Above all, pray that the name of Jesus would be lifted up.
(credit: the above photo is from the blog “The Border is the Problem” accessible here)