The civil war in Syria has created numerous refugees. Australia has decided they will accept only 12,000 refugees, other countries have made different decisions. Greece did not have that luxury. They were on the front line of refugees fleeing to the West. Not accepting them meant sending them to their death, but Greece cannot handle the huge numbers of refugees coming in, which has created the refugee crisis, an additional crisis for a country already struggling. This week our prayer is for the refugees in general, and especially those in Greece.
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Prayer for refugees in the Greece
We pray for those who have been forced
To leave their homes,
To leave behind what they once knew
And took for granted,
Friends, extended families, ways of life.
We pray for those who are at risk at sea,
At the mercy of wind and waves,
And the alluring claims of ‘people smugglers’,
With their promises of deliverance and hope.
We remember those who are no more,
The faceless numbers of this week’s toll
Of those who did not make it:
They are the ones who have been lost at sea,
Washed up on alien shore,
Young and very young,
Old and in-between,
We remember them.
We pray for those
Face to face with police,
With heavily armed security troops,
Face to face with razor wire and border control.
Christ Jesus, you were a refugee,
A vulnerable child, a holy innocent:
May your will be done,
May your compassion be known;
This Pentecost season may the Spirit of God
Blow freely, strongly, buffeting and tugging away
At the barriers to hope
And an equality of being and dignity.
Over the last few years Greece has been in the news on a regular basis. For some time we would here of emergency budgets, political stand-offs with the European Union, runs on the banks, protests in the streets and frequent changes of government. The reality of Greek indebtedness to German political and economic clout reminded citizens of the damages they had sustained during the Nazi invasion and occupation 70 years before. Would Greece remain within the European Union or be left to find its own way in the company of the drachma rather than the Euro? How difficult to imagine a collapsed state in the light of its classical legacy and its role of being the origins of democracy.
Now all that seems to be in the background – though Greek debt remains high and its people vulnerable. Now the focus falls, firstly, on the Greek islands. For so long they have been the destination of choice for millions of tourists and those on Aegean Sea cruises. The islands of Cos and Lesbos are among those which lie close to the Turkish mainland. They have become the much sought-after destination for refugees from Syria and further afield seeking to establish a foothold, however tenuous in Europe. To the north of the country lies the second focus – the razor wire of Macedonia which prevents refugees entry into the rest of Europe.
For Christians, of course, Greece is of some importance. The books of the New Testament were originally written in Greek. Several of Paul’s epistles were directed to churches in what we would now regard as Greek cities – Philippi, Corinth and Thessaloniki. Paul’s address to the unknown God took place in the Athenian agora or marketplace.
Our expression of faith owes much to this presently troubled country – so much so that words like church are derived from (κυριακος), kyriarkos, belonging to the Lord) and the Eucharist comes from the Greek to give thanks (εύχαριστεω),( eucharisteo).