Letter to Greek Ambassador in New York regarding Syrian Refugees in Athens (11 March 2013)

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To the Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in New York City
Ambassador H.E. Anastassis Mitsialis

Monday, 11 March 2013

Dear Mr. Ambassador Mitsialis,

We refer to the meeting on 4 March 2013 of the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) in New York City with the First Counselor Mr. Venizelos and the Second Secretary Mr. Dimitris Felopoulos. We primarily discussed issues pertaining the Syrian crisis, in particular that of the Aramean (Syriac) Christian refugees from Syria who have arrived in Greece.

Your Excellency, we also refer to the recent visit by the WCA and its Member Federations to Athens on 4 and 5 February 2013. To similarly discuss Syria related issues, we met first with Mr. Charalambos P. Manessis, Minister Plenipotentiary Director for Religious and Ecclesiastical Affairs; and then with Mr. Angelos Syrigos, Secretary General of Population and Social Cohesion; Ms. Eleni Sourani, Minister Plenipotentiary & Director of Directorate of Arab Countries and the Middle East; and Mr. Patrokolos Georgiadis, General Secretary for Civil Protection.

During both occasions we were very well received and we confirmed concrete actions to improve the situation of Aramean Christian refugees in Greece, all of whom arrived in the country since late 2011.

We understood that you will visit Athens and we agreed that the WCA could send you in writing the three basic needs of our people in Greece. We are hopeful and thankful to Your Excellency that you will raise the primary concerns of the Aramean (Syriac) Christians at a senior level, which are as follows:

  1. The Christian refugees request that their residence permits be extended until six (6) months, or even longer if a new Greek law can be introduced, so they can live and work in Greece for a period of time. Our refugees have sufficient concerns of survival in a foreign land, usually with their wives and children, to also be worried about being detained by the local authorities for not having certain valid documentation. If their residency permits were extended to at least 6 months, their concerns would cease to exist in this regard.
  2. Over time, many Aramean Christian refugees have been detained in prison for extended periods of time. We request the Greek authorities to show understanding to the Christians from Syria, to release them from prison as a matter of priority and that there be agreement that these refugees not be jailed at any time, unless a crime has been conducted.
  3. We request the urgent assistance of the Church of Greece in the following two cases:
    a.) At the moment, some 40 meals are provided per day to the Aramean Christian refugees. The WCA is very grateful for this, but as the number of refugees has increased in the recent months we kindly request the Greek Church that more meals be provided.
    b.) If there is a vacant church building, particularly in Athens where the Christian refugees are located, the WCA requests that the Greek Government and/or the Church of Greece work together with the Aramean Christians so that those Christians can reside in a building or a church where the local Christians can celebrate the holy mass.

Just like the Greeks, the Aramean people have an ancient history with rich contributions to this world. But as you are aware, Your Excellency, the Aramean Christians are a stateless people who are trying hard to survive in a worldwide diaspora where they try to preserve their endangered Aramaic language, which is famously known as the language of Jesus.

We thank Your Excellency for raising and highlighting the above mentioned issues pertaining to the needy Aramean (Syriac) Christian refugees from Syria with the Greek authorities in Athens.

Johny Messo
World Council of Arameans (Syriacs),
Formerly “Syriac Universal Alliance”




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