Rhodes. The untold drama of the island and Fr. Luke’s aid
Rhodes, known for its famous colossus and its warm and crystalline sea, has experienced an unknown tragedy for years, where stories of poverty and war intertwine. The economic crisis that hit Greece has not yet ended, and the small islands bordering the Mediterranean Sea have long been the refuge of thousands of refugees who leave the Middle East to seek fortune and life.
Father Luke Gregory, Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land and coordinator of the project for the refugees we have been helping for years, knows this very well. He helps those who disembark, consoles them, listens to their stories full of drama and hope, does all he can to restore a denied future to all those Syrian and Iraqi families who touch – in fear – that strip of land bathed by the Mediterranean Sea. The story he tells us, one of many, is that of Mohamed: “It was a real struggle trying to negotiate the transfer of Mohammed and his family from the slaughterhouse to the apartment,” he says.
The slaughterhouse he talks about is in effect a refugee camp, and Mohamed a young husband who with his wife, expecting a child, escaped the war. “It’s not that great, but it’s clean and safe enough.” There is no washing machine, but this is not a big problem: “years ago I put a washing machine in the parish hall of the church – he says – so that Filipinos without a washing machine could wash their clothes and it was a great success. . Funny how the things we take for granted are like a precious jewel for others ”.
Father Luke is committed, and fights against the bureaucracy to welcome the family to the island and provide them with health care: “it’s an endless struggle! Mohamed’s wife gives birth to little Allam, but within a short time, due to her severe living conditions, she gets skin sick. In the place where they lived there was not even electricity! “. The situation is difficult, sometimes serious: “The little girl had a serious infection, with an acute allergic reaction. The first time they went to the emergency room they sent her away with a bottle of skin cream! After two days she was feeling much worse and she was having difficulty breathing. I remember they moved in the darkness of this windowless shack with a small battery-powered torch !! I sent them back to hospital: the second time she was hospitalized and she was given intravenous therapy! “.
Today they are better off, and live not far from the Church of Santa Maria, the parish of Father Luke. “I am able to monitor the child’s progress on a daily basis. The baby Allam is much better and we are buying the different drugs needed. Now I can take care of the needs of Mohammed, the father, who has back problems. I hope to find a physiotherapist who will treat him. Not many are open to refugees because they still think they will contract Covid, alas, it is a possibility, and indeed a miracle that I am not positive! ”.
Many refugees also have psychological problems, and it is a cross that is added to the others: “We face every problem as soon as it arrives. Whoever comes to Rhodes, if he decides to stay, also needs to learn a little Greek. They often ask me if I can find work for Mohammed, but it is almost impossible because they have no residence and cannot be insured… We will see what can be done in the future. We are in full quarantine, so all we can do is very limited. But I’m sure that all the help is an indication of the hand of Divine Providence “.
With one last, great certainty that accompanies him and that he always repeats: “Anyone who does these things to one of the little ones does them to me. Jesus said so ”.