Anaïs Philippe of The Globe Church shares her reflections on relief work at Camp Moria in Greece.
Just as London was being hard hit by Covid-19 and in lockdown, I had the opportunity to spend my time differently. As part of a worldwide Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), I travelled to Greece, to the island of Lesbos, which has the largest refugee camp in Europe: Camp Moria. With the onset of the pandemic, many volunteers had left Lesbos to return home, adding to the hardship that Camp Moria was already experiencing. It was under these circumstances that a DART team was deployed to set up an isolation station that could be used if Covid broke out in Camp Moria, to bring goods and support, and to assist in the camp’s daily operations.
My personal experience in Moria is impossible to summarise in a few paragraphs. In theory, the camp is supposed to fit between 3,000 and 5,000 people for a very short-term stay – a few days. But the political circumstances and the current border policies in Europe have forced refugees to stay there for many months and often years, increasing the numbers up to 17,000 in and around camp. As you can imagine, that makes it impossible to take Covid precautions and conditions concerning hygiene, privacy, nutrition, safety and medical care are dire in all areas of the camp.
Moria is not a good place to live. It’s where the poorest, the lamest, and the most hurt are all cramped in one place, surrounded by barbed wire and garbage. However, Moria has shown me much more than the results of social injustice or the consequences of a fallen world.
In Moria, I have learned about being generous even when one has nothing to give. As humans created in God’s image, I’ve witnessed what it looks like to have been stripped of all dignity but to nevertheless share a loaf of bread with a complete stranger. The hospitality and kindness I received as a volunteer from those whom we had come to help left me speechless and astonished.
It reminded me of humanity’s resilience and of our ability to create a new normal in dire circumstances. Seeing some refugees set up improvised churches in the olive grove around the camp and hearing stories of Muslims coming to know Christ assured me that God is at work in ways we don’t even imagine.
I went to Moria thinking my help was more needed there than in locked-down London. I came back from Moria humbled by what I had received from those I thought I was going to help, but also being certain of our personal need for a Saviour – one who declares, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35).
PS: As I finished writing this, I received the news that the first case of coronavirus has been identified in Camp Moria. Please join me in praying for protection against an outbreak and for wisdom for the Greek authorities to know how to handle coronavirus outbreak as well as the devasting fires that has caused further destruction in recent days.