Middle Eastern Christians have fled an attempted genocide in areas controlled by ISIS, and others have exercised the freedom to change their religion, promised by the Human Rights Convention, but in doing so have become targeted as apostates. Many have fled to seek refuge in Europe and the West.
At the beginning of our work in Greece, we planned to set up a residential facility specifically for the Middle Eastern Christian minority to be housed in a safe environment and with access to much needed support. This plan changed into a better solution which is now working well.
The organisation has two main projects in Athens:
Once in the program, they are assisted with obtaining relevant registrations, training and necessary documentation to begin living independently. ICC's hope is to see them move from dependency on charity and the Greek government, to standing on their own feet once again.
Those who take this opportunity seriously find hope, and many of them manage to secure full-time employment and move into their own accommodation.
Following referral and an in-depth screening interview, already persecuted Christians who are at risk of further harm are placed in one of our 8 safe houses in and around Athens.
They are provided with everything they need to live with dignity, safety and normality again. They stay in the safe house for a few months, during which the ICC provides integration support and encourages them to move towards independence and a new life in Greece.
The House of Faith centre is a vital hub and place of refuge for persecuted Christians in Athens, as well as a central point of support for those in the ICC Safe House Program.
Opened in August 2017, the centre provides a sense of community and support for those who arrive seeking help. English and Greek classes are held several times a week, along with discipleship and bible classes, all of which are well attended.
Beneficiaries can come and ask advice, search for jobs using the centre's computers, and spend some quiet time in the library reading their bibles and learning in peace, without fear of retribution.
The House of Faith is a community in every sense of the word, and a place where 'church' is not just a Sunday service, but rather a way of life. These people who have suffered so much for their faith and have so little, are strong in faith and serious about discipleship. It is a small glimpse of the early church in the book of Acts!
Many of our beneficiaries have experienced significant traumas, and would benefit from getting out of the city to experience peaceful and beautiful surroundings. Greece is a very beautiful country but few of the most traumatised ever get the opportunity to leave the hectic and chaotic city where stress levels increase.
ICC owns a small camping retreat facility in a rural, mountainous part of Greece, which provides the opportunity for beneficiaries to visit and spend time in nature, getting involved in small scale agricultural activities, whilst having the mental space they need to process what's happened to them.
The Goshen retreat also provides opportunity for intensive discipleship retreats, where beneficiaries can have hands-on, 'live' visual examples of many of the parables taught by Jesus, as well as more focused bible studies, prayer sessions and mentoring.
"I love going to Goshen. I feel peace there and God is healing me from many things there. When I am pruning olive trees or splitting logs, I feel God helping me release my anger and unforgiveness. I can think there and pray and listen to God, because it's not busy or loud like Athens. Before, I couldn't find peace. Going there helps me a lot and I really needed it. I learnt a lot too about the things Jesus said, because I can see the same examples there. I understand it better now."