International Peacemaker from Greece works to help refugees

 

Manolis Ntamparakis to share experiences with U.S. churches this fall

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Manolis Ntamparakis. Photo provided

LOUISVILLE – Nearly 30,000 refugees live in or near Thessaloniki, a port city in Greece. Manolis Ntamparakis has made it his calling to help them. He is the director of social action for the Naomi Ecumenical Workshop for Refugees, a nonprofit organization founded two years ago.

“Naomi’s main task is to respond to the needs of thousands of refugees who live in the area and react to the ongoing lack of basic care programs for them,” he said. “We provide emergency aid and integration measures to alleviate the miserable situation facing refugees who are forced to leave their countries. It is devoted to supporting vulnerable people in a non-bureaucratic way as well as the empowerment of women and men to build a future in a foreign country.”

Ntamparakis was born in Athens and studied physics at the University of Thessaloniki. He holds a master of divinity in theology and pastoral studies from Tyndale Theological Seminary in Amsterdam and a master of theology in Bible translation and eastern Orthodox theology from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

For 10 years, he served as a staff member of CRU International and was the national coordinator for church planting and evangelism based in Thessaloniki. Ntamparakis also spent six years as a pastor of the Greek Evangelical Church.

Greece with regions. FreeVectorMaps.com

This fall, Ntamparakis will be one of 10 International Peacemakers visiting the U.S. as part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. The 10 will speak at churches, seminaries and other gatherings from Sept. 21 to Oct. 15.

Ntamparakis plans to discuss the work he’s been involved with and the struggles refugees face in his country.

“Naomi operates a textile workshop for refugees with classes at different levels from beginners to designers or producers,” he said. “Women and men from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Nigeria and other African countries are being trained so they can repair and provide clothes for their family and friends. Special training enables them to work in the Greek market.”

Ntamparakis says small production groups design and produce jackets, aprons, bags, shirts and tunics. “Naomi’s aim is to create fair jobs and wages for refugees in Greece, where unemployment is 26 percent.”

Ntamparakis hopes to encourage U.S. churches to step up and support refugees in their search for better lives.

“No human being must stay without care, livelihood, happiness and friends abroad. Our institutions, especially the church, have to take the hardship of those who have been forced to leave their countries into account so that they are not alone handling their lives as refugees,” he said. “The church response has to aim at overcoming discrimination and social exclusion, especially of women and to promote justice and peace in our world.”

Ntamparakis says it is a kairos moment in that God is doing something that will change the course of history and create something new.

“God opened a window by moving millions of distraught and traumatized people across Middle Eastern roads and the African deserts to Europe,” he said. “The church can help them find their place in the redemptive plan of God.”

Those interested in scheduling Ntamparakis to speak can click here for an application. Annual visits by peacemakers have taken place since 1984. More than 300 individuals have participated in the program from as many as 57 countries.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is supported by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.


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