My name is Len Meachim and member of the local Catholic community here on Lesbos. We thank you for your presence here once again. I thank you for standing beside our refugee and migrant brothers and sisters throughout the world. You inspire and give strength to those of us, of all faiths and none, who share your position.
Members of our then small Catholic community once stood with other people of this island on its shores to help those who had made the often dangerous journey across from Turkey. One man told us that the hand of friendship held out in welcome meant even more to him than the food and dry clothing we gave him. Later, we were able to extend this hand of welcome to Christian asylum-seekers, mostly from West Africa, who came to our Parish church. I believe we have been blessed by their presence. Our brothers and sisters brought renewed life into our community, and not just in terms of numbers. The strength of their faith and hope, despite the sufferings of their past and present, despite their anxious uncertainty about the future, has been an example to us. They have enriched our worship with their joy, enthusiasm, youthful vitality, and eager participation.
Our community has also offered material support to those who seek asylum, to those who have been granted asylum, to those who share our faith, and to those who do not. As a small community, we could not have done this without practical support from friends on the island and financial support from friends elsewhere. We are very grateful to them. We are also grateful to the refugees themselves. We would have achieved very little without the help of some outstanding individuals amongst them. People who fled their country, men and women, with religious beliefs, and without, but all sharing deep compassion for their brothers and sisters, capable, responsible people with skills and qualities, have offered us invaluable help, help with no expectation of personal reward.
Your Holiness, asylum-seekers come here in the hope of new life, a life worth living. Our friends eventually leave us and this island, continuing their journey. It is my profound hope that a hand of friendship is extended to them and supports them when they reach their final destination, their ‘promised land’. My personal experience leads me to a firm belief, the belief that they have as much to offer us as we have to offer them.