On Thursday morning our boat arrived on the island of Lesbos,
where one can see can Turkey on the other side of the straits.
drove up to the village of Kalloni (central Lesbos) to meet with Father
Stratis, a Greek Orthodox priest who has been helping refugees for ten
and his assistant, George. They
arrive in the village soaking wet and exhausted, often having walked
hours. Greek citizens face jail
time if they pick up the migrants (similar to U.S. citizens at the
Mexico). If they know their way,
it a ten-hour walk from the beach to Kalloni. If they do not know the
way, it may take days. George told us the water and the walking
usually destroys their shoes. The
balcony of Father Stratisâ€™s church is filled with donations of clothes
and three volunteers sort and process for handing out.
While they have sufficient resources right now for their
ministry, their biggest struggle is with morale. The townspeople often complain that people involved with
their ministry are helping refugees when they should be focused on helping
Greeks who have been hurt by the economic crisis. The fascist Golden Dawn movement, while not strong on Lesbos
generally, is toxically eating away at the minds of young people, making racism
appear acceptable. George told us
some of the young people see the Golden Dawn violence against refugees as cool,
like the violence of Hollywood movies.
We were deeply touched by the witness of Father Stratis and George.
Friday afternoon, we visited the memorial place in Thermi
with some members of the â€śWelcome to Europeâ€ť Network. Several migrants lost their lives on the
sea just trying to reach the nearest European border they could see from
Turkey. Twenty-one Afghan migrants
sank close by just a few days before Christmas of 2013.