President Dieter F. Uchtdorf — himself a former refugee — visited refugee camps in Athens on July 22, reaching out to those forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution and hunger.
“These refugees are our brothers and sisters; all of us are God’s children,” said President Uchtdorf. “The gratitude we saw in the eyes of these refugees for the generosity and kindness of our Church members will never be forgotten. I could deeply feel the bond of love and compassion with these stranded families.
“We seldom felt a greater urgency for applying the Lord’s teachings to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees’ (Doctrine and Covenants 81:5).
“There is a great need of Christlike love and practical help for our Heavenly Father’s children abroad and at home. We can be instruments in God’s hands by reaching out to the one wherever we may be. The children we met looked beautiful and were so eager to learn whatever was offered to them. Providing in the Lord’s way and opening doors for education of children and youth will bless future generations and help create an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation.
“As we saw firsthand all these good things happening in the camps we visited, we felt gratitude and love for our Church members for their willingness to give so freely of their talents, time, and means to help our fellowmen who are seeking refuge and peace.”
During his trip, President Uchtdorf visited the Piraeus camp, which helps 1,332 people and is located 12 kilometers outside of Athens. The visit was hosted by Catholic Relief Services.
President Uchtdorf also visited the Eleonas refugee camp, located near Athens and temporary home to 2,415 people. The visit was hosted by International Rescue Committee.
Both organizations are important global partners to LDS Charities; CRS and IRC work with LDS Charities to aid refugees both in Europe and throughout the world.
The Church has been providing aid to refugees in the Middle East for more than a decade, donating hundreds of thousands of blankets, clothes, emergency medical supplies, food and other resources to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.
In response to the recent crisis in Europe, the Church sent $5 million to help displaced families in September. And last week, President Uchtdorf presented a $3 million donation from the Church to the World Food Programme to help refugees and internally displaced people in Syria, Cameroon and Chad.
“The generous offerings of our worldwide membership make such a donation possible,” President Uchtdorf said.
Earlier this year, the First Presidency — including President Uchtdorf — encouraged Latter-day Saint women of all ages to assist refugees in their own communities.
In a letter dated March 26, 2016, the First Presidency stated, “We remind Latter-day Saints throughout the world that one of the fundamental principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is to ‘impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, … administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants’ (Mosiah 4:26).”
The letter outlined the “I Was a Stranger” refugee relief effort and followed another letter issued six months earlier. In October 2015 a letter from the First Presidency encouraged all members to provide assistance to refugees in all parts of the world.