Greece (MNN) — 2020 is barely underway, and already, at least two violent deaths have resulted from overcrowded refugee camps in Greece. A 20-year-old Yemeni man was killed Friday; earlier this month, a young man died after being attacked by a fellow refugee.
Officials expect more unrest this week on the Greek island Lesbos. AMG International’s Bill Passons explains, “The refugees are landing on those islands… they’re getting stuck there… and that’s creating all kinds of issues as [the islands] were already overcrowded.”
Refugees don’t ask for the violence that rips them from their homes, but many find Christ along the way.
A growing problem
New arrivals spiked 50-percent last year, with eight out of 10 people coming to Greece through the Aegean islands. Last week, officials re-opened the migration office and promised to speed up deportations.
Refugees are searching for more than a new place to live. “They’re searching for… their value, searching for a reason for existence; [wanting] just to be seen and to be understood again. So, all this searching definitely produces opportunities for us to share [the Gospel],” Passons says.
One such man, given the name “Ali” for protection purposes, had to leave his Syrian hometown when it was attacked by ISIS. His home and career were gone, replaced by poverty and homelessness.
“How could we not care? How can we who are Christians, who know what hope is, who are stewards of the Gospel, not care?”
Refugees are fleeing war in their home countries, but the trip to Europe often presents its own dangers. A ship carrying migrants recently sank off of the coast of Greece, killing at least 12. Upon arrival, migrants often live in camps, suffering cramped and unhealthy living conditions. “Things that some of these refugees are going through, that should never be normal,” Passon says.
“We are working with most of the refugees as they get transitioned into the mainland, so we continue to see God work amongst the ministry there. Most of what we’re doing is just connecting people to the resources that are there, coming alongside them, helping them navigate these transitions.”
This is important, as many refugees may be stuck in Greece for a very long time.
Passon says the “ministry of presence,” is important, simply “being there with them, having compassion and caring.” AMG walks with the refugees in the time of crises, providing for their pressing practical needs and also ready to provide hope founded in Jesus Christ.
Hope amid crisis
It was in Greece that Ali first heard the Gospel. He received the news with joy, eager to learn more and share Christ with others. Ali now works for AMG in Athens and hopes to return to Syria one day and help spread the Gospel there.
Passons says a benefit of ministering to these refugees is keeping in contact with them as they are placed in other European countries. Many have joined local churches, and are carrying the Gospel wherever they go.
Other immigrants are still searching, Passon says. He urges Christians to pray that they, too, would find Christ.
Header image depicts unaccompanied boys from Afghanistan and Syria in Section A of the Moria reception centre. (Photo, caption © UNHCR/Gordon Welters)