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Monastery opens its gates to host vulnerable Syrian refugees

A monastery will open its gates and host asylum-seekers, single parent families from Syria, consisting of 50-60 women and children. It is one of the two monasteries the Metropolis of Ilia opens for vulnerable groups of refugees. First negative reactions by locals already are being heard.

The refugees are expected to be transferred to the Holy Monastery of Poretsou in the framework of the government’s effort to decongest the overcrowded islands in the East Aegean Sea.

The monastery is located at the borders of the prefectures of Ilia and Achaia in West Peloponnese, some 100 km South of Patras and next to the small village of Agrapella with less than 50 registered inhabitants.

According to local media, jobs positions for necessary staff such as cooks and teachers for the children have been opened.

the Monastery was built in the 10. or 11. century and renovated form the gorund in 1611 following a fire. The Nazis looted the monastery in 1943.

“The Church of Christ is a church of love and help,” Bishop of Olenis, Athanasios, told media when asked why the Monastery will host refugees.

“Christ said to love the enemy as yourself. If these are our enemies, will we throw them in the Aegean to drown? Certainly not. Just as Christ was a fugitive from Jerusalem in Egypt, so is the case with these people, ”said his assistant, the Metropolitan of Elijah, Germanos.

“The Church does not see whether one is faithful or not. It treats him as an image of God, “he added.

The bishop stated that the monastery was in ruins and that it was renovated with funding form a program of the National Tourism Organization EOT with the purpose to become a hostel for tourists.

“The Monastery was not active, it is not that we persuaded the monks to accept strangers. We handed over the building to the state and it decided to host 50-60 people, single parent families,” Germanos said.

The negative reactions are “because they [locals] don’t know what kind of people they are. Because the islands are violent and they are a part of the people. Syrians are cultivated people. We said they would be in the monastery, we would watch them and if something happened then there would be a reaction.”

Speaking to state broadcaster ERT TV on Thursday morning, one of the secular managers of Agios Dimitrios Church in the nearby village said they will oppose the resettlement if “they are not Christians.”

“We have objections if they are not Christians,” Konstantinos Panagiotopoulos told ERT. He had complained right away that they were not informed in time about the arrivals, a complain heard by every local community opposing the resettlement of refugees.

According to latest reports, the Metropolis of Ilia, plans to open one more monastery, this of  Difri, to host unaccompanied Syrian minors.

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