Our view: What real religion looks like


Few noticed in early September when a 57-year-old Greek Orthodox preiest named Efstratios Dimou died of cancer on the island of Lesvos.

With a long beard, wearing a portable oxygen tank, Dimou — known as Papa Stratis — ministered to the refugees from the Middle East pouring onto his native island as long as he could. With the help of local young people, he founded a charity called Aggalia (Embrace), which has been providing refugees with clothing, food, water and a place to sleep since 2009.

"What I see are people. People in need. I cannot turn them away, nor can I kick them, nor imprison them," he told Amnesty International. "I cannot send them back to where they came from. Nor can I throw them in the sea to drown."

One can find online a short video from the United Nations refugee agency. In it, Papa Stratis called the refugees "children of war, fleeing bullets. They are life-seekers, they search for life, hope and the chance to live another day."

Shortly before his death, he told a visiting writer for The New Yorker: "Here all we can do is help these people, in whatever way we can. ...they are thirsty and starving and ill. They also have their own God, their own ethics, and their own traditions. We have to respect them and give them strength to carry on with their lives."

Rest in peace, Efstratios Dimou, Papa Stratis.


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