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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ecumenical links enable a swift response to stranded refugees

Ecumenical partnership can result swift action in the midst of the current refugee crisis. Here is an example from Greece:

Last Saturday afternoon at 2.45 pm, I received an email from my good friend and ecumenical colleague, Bishop Angaelos, the General Bishop of the Coptic Church in the UK. A person contacted the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Stevenage, England, to inform them that over 500 people from Syria were stranded on the island of Farmakonisi, Greece. Farmakonisi is a small uninhabited island, about 1 1/2 square miles in area, off the Turkish coast.  Bishop Angaelos was in Frankfurt; I was in Ankara.

Bishop Angaelos
2 hours later I managed to alert our Senior Chaplain in Athens, the Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, who has been central to inter-church efforts in addressing the needs of arriving refugees in Greece.

By 9 pm that night, Fr Malcolm had been in touch with partners in the neighbouring island of Leros. Contact was made with the Syrian refugees on Farmakonisi, and about 200 of them, women and children mostly, were shuttled over to Leros, and supplies of food and water left on the island for the rest, who themselves were taken to Leros the next day.

Fr Malcolm Bradshaw
It is hard to conceive of any agency enabling such a swift response in such a crisis, but the Churches, through our ecumenical links and partnerships, delivered.

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