Greece (MNN) — Nearly 36,000 refugees, most coming from Syria, have landed on Greece’s shores.
But January is proving to be a deadly month to try and cross the Aegean Sea for these emigrants as 113 fatalities have been recorded so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.
More than 850,000 refugees have ventured onto Greek shores looking for a better life. Mostly Muslims, they enter from the Aegean Sea. If they survive, they often land in places like Lesbos, Greece.
While these refugees are being noticed for their massive numbers and huge needs, there is another group of Muslims who have been living the lives of refugees for generations.
The Pomak people of Northern Greece have homes and many have farms, but this group of about 50,000 Muslims are isolated both geographically and socially. With increased pressure on Greece’s government over the refugee crisis, the Pomaks are being caught in the middle over political wrangling with Turkey.
Greece basically ignored the Pomak people from the conclusion of the Greco-Turkey war in 1922, up through the 1990s, says AMG International President and CEO Tasos Ioannidis. Now, Turkey, which has a Muslim-friendly government, is trying to increase its influence with the Pomaks.
Following the war with Turkey, the two countries had a population exchange. Muslims were sent to Turkey with their possessions being claimed by the state. Likewise Christians in Turkey were sent to Greece. But the Pomaks remained.
If the Pomaks were seen as being aligned with Turkey before by their neighbors, the opinion is stronger these days, Ioannidis explains.
“It is just an ignored and unreached people group.” Until the 1990s, there was not even a dictionary for the Pomak language; now there are some language resources.
The Pomaks remain an isolated people, poor by Western standards, but better off than their refugee counterparts flooding the country. Their isolation has made them suspicious of outsiders.
By providing medical care, AMG volunteers and partners committed to making sure the Pomak people are given a voice in the community.
The Gospel will spread there, but not through evangelists from the outside, Ioannidis says. It will start with a Pomak who accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Savior and then tells a friend. Regardless of their seclusion, Ioannidis believes they can be helped and can learn the saving knowledge of Christ.