“We cannot forget them”. Fr. Luke’s tireless work with refugees

Giacomo Pizzi12 March 2020

On the Greek-Turkish border thousands of migrants are stuck in the cold, victims of violence and abuse. No one wants to take them in. On this occasion we publish the beautiful testimony of Fr. Luke Gregory, parish priest of the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kos, who has been providing assistance to Syrian refugees for years thanks to the support of Pro Terra Sancta Association.

“When I come to them with a shampoo or shower gel, it’s like I’m bringing them gold. You should see how they welcome me”. So Fr. Luke, the Franciscan parish priest of Rhodes and Kos in Greece, begins his update on the 138 migrants who live in makeshift tents and in the crumbling structure of an old slaughterhouse in Rhodes and who he visits weekly.

He has been doing this for years and, thanks to the support of the Association Pro Terra Sancta, he always brings with him packages of food and basic necessities, such as shampoo or toothpaste. It is only the minimum necessary to be able to give a hand to people who are forgotten by all. “Believe me,” he tells us, “it would be enough just to visit them, to sit with them and listen to them, for them it is already an immense gift. So imagine the party they give me when I bring them flour or frying oil. A party!”

As we receive more and more worrying news of the abuses and violence perpetrated on thousands of Syrian migrants forced to the border, his words strike us. Fr. Luke does not propose a solution to a deeper and deeper crisis, worsened by the new wave of violence in Syria, but proposes and alternative of humanity and closeness that cannot fail, as it has done for years.

“The real problem – says Fr. Luke – is that these people are totally forgotten. Unfortunately I understand that the solution is difficult, but we cannot forget them”. And he repeats: “It’s enough to improve the place where they live a little bit, to bring them the minimum necessary, but above all to be there. After so many years, I am always touched to see how this attitude brings so much joy. In response they welcome me and insist that I stay for lunch with them. They share what little they have”.

Aware that this is not the solution to the drama of the millions of refugees in the world, we join with Fr. Luke to ask for more humanity and a minimum of assistance for these people. That is why we renew our commitment to support Fr. Luke and the refugees from Rhodes. Even if it is only a tiny drop in an ocean of needs.