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Christmas concert in the temple of St. Panteleimon with police and racist slogans

13 December 2010 / 16:12:36  GRReporter
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Hundreds of residents of the area around the church of St. Panteleimon but also citizens from all over Athens flocked to the Orthodox Church to attend a Christmas concert organized by the Greek archbishopric and the Music Chamber in Athens. The unique event brought together celebrities and ordinary people to stop the neighbourhood from turning into ghetto and put an end to the extremes between members of right-wing groups and immigrants. The Christmas concert was intended to send a message for peaceful living together, for harmony and unity between the people of different nationalities who live in the area as well as to put an end to the tragic events that happened there in recent years.

The temple inside was arranged for the needs of the event and people began gathering hours before the concert. Whole families, Greeks and foreigners - Orthodox Christians from all over the Greek capital - attended the event thus expressing their support for the message that the organizers wanted to send. The president of the country Karolos Papoulias who was expected by the Archbishop, government members and all attendees arrived at the temple minutes before the concert.

Then the church doors were closed making dozens of citizens to protest as they could not enter. There were people among them that carried folding chairs hoping to enter even in the absence of vacancies. The concert began with short speeches by Archbishop Yeronimos and the president of the Music Chamber Ioannis Manos, who stressed that a cultural event could erase the differences and show the way towards a peaceful coexistence.

At the same time, police presence outside the temple was getting even stronger. Special riot forces guarded the entrances because of fears of protests from right-wing members and the stairs and the square were full of people who listened to the concert from the speakers.

Half an hour after the beginning of the concert a small group of far-rights started to shout nationalist slogans from the crossing, where they had gathered, and then they moved to the square before the church, where they continued to protest along with some residents of nearby buildings.

A group of fanatical Christians were with them who had made verbal attacks against priests earlier that "they turned the temple into a night club and tolerate the presence of foreigners in the neighbourhood." Shortly after the end of the concert protesters moved to the place where the cars of the official guests were parked. They stood there and waited to boo them, but the police officers put them off and secured a safe exit. The mixed group of right-wing protesters and fanatical believers dispersed a little later.

The Christmas concert was participated by the four-part choir of the church of St. Panteleimon and The Friends of Music’s Orchestra at the Music Chamber performed works of Greek and foreign composers. Masters of Psalter Art took the baton and sang Christmas anthems under the general title Christ is Born in Bethlehem. The famous singer George Dalaras closed the concert with songs by Mikis Theodorakis after Odysseas Elytis’ poems. According to the attending citizens, the concert had a positive impact on the residents of the area as they witnessed for years strife and clashes between members of right-wing groups and immigrants.

"The area around St. Panteleimon became something of a ‘frontier’ of Greece", "Nowadays, you are afraid even to walk here. My friends sold their homes and moved into other neighbourhoods, because they were afraid to stay here. Only a real change of policy could change today's desperate situation", "I think that the state and municipality are to be blamed to allowing immigrants to come here today and walk in hunger and misery. As a result, the residents of the neighbourhood have frequent quarrels with them. Initiatives like this are a good start," said some of the attending.

Tags: RacistsXenophobesIllegal immigrantsFar-right groupsSt. Panteleimon
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