Testimony of Elisabeth Chrysanthou of Caritas Cyprus

Presented at Ecumenical Prayer Service for Migrants Led by Pope Francis in the Parish Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia

Testimony of Elisabeth Chrysanthou
Pope Greets Elisabeth Chrysanthou © Vatican Media

Elisabeth Chrysanthou, Member of the Board of Caritas Cyprus, gave the following testimony today during the ecumenical prayer service for migrants led by Pope Francis in the Parish Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia.

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The Bible tells us to give, but these words come to us with a promise: Give and it will be given to you. At Caritas, we live out this promise of God daily and gain a manifold harvest from what we sow.

We are often humbled when we are thanked for what we do, but it is we who are thankful when we witness someone who is burdened finding joy; someone lost finding purpose; someone who says they do not believe in God turning to prayer to comfort another. And we walk away different people, changed, we hope, for the better.

Since its founding, Caritas Cyprus’ mission has been the same as that of the Caritas Internationalis confederation of which it is a part—to provide for those in need, protect the vulnerable and give a voice to those who would otherwise go unheard, in particular those affected by the tragic events that divided the island in 1974.

Now because of the island’s geographical location—at a crossroads of continents and cultures—people fleeing various crises in Lebanon, the Middle East, and from regions farther afield have come here in search of refuge and better conditions in which to live and find hope and safety. Others journeyed to what they thought was a course of study or a job only to fall victim to trafficking and exploitation. Many experienced violence, deception, and hardship; some survived torture, slavery, and abandonment. All have had to face the pandemic as well, far from home, without certainty, and on the margins.

Currently, Cyprus is receiving more asylum seekers per capita than any other European Union country. Caritas Cyprus has tried to respond to the challenge of accommodating and caring for so many. We are working to fill the gaps in the social safety net as best we can. Thanks in large part to our partnership with Catholic Relief Services and the relationships we have built with other organizations, churches, communities, and individuals, we kept our doors open throughout the pandemic and provided support to more than ten thousand individuals across the island.

Many of them have been forced to leave their homes and loved ones (some come from across the world, others from down the street). Their needs may be basic, such as food or clothes, or more complicated, such as completing a form, translating at a hospital, finding emergency shelter and protection from violence, and gaining access to medical care or legal advice. Yet all must adjust, transition, integrate; all must pick up and go on. All must learn to start anew.

In carrying out our mission, we are mindful that each person is unique and worthy of attention. The work we do may be at times tiring but it is inspiring and makes us dream bigger. We dream that more can be done, more people can be reached, more communities transformed, more of us involved in each other’s lives.

At Caritas Cyprus, we pray that we will continue to grow in love for the people we serve. It is an honor and privilege to be doing what God calls us to do and it is exciting to see how this work transforms the world and us within! Praise be to God.