Ombudsman report paints scathing picture of Ark of the World charity

Ombudsman report paints scathing picture of Ark of the World charity

Kivotos tou Kosmou (Ark of the World) used cruel forms of punishment to ‘discipline’ its wards – including physical violence, days and even weeks of isolation and forced labor – and denied them visits with their families, according to an investigation by the Greek Ombudsman into the children’s charity whose founder, a priest, stands accused of sexual and physical abuse.

“The standing and public affirmation surrounding its public image had effectively placed Kivotos tou Kosmou beyond the criticism and scrutiny of the state’s competent authorities,” said the 24-page report submitted on Monday to the deputy minister for social welfare and solidarity, Domna Michailidou, with the findings of Ombudsman Andreas Pottakis and his assistant Theoni Koufonikolaou.

Acting on complaints received in May-September 2022 concerning abusive practices in the charity’s main branch in the Athens district of Kolonos but also in other parts of the country, the Ombudsman found that the children were subjected to an evaluation system, whereby “good” behavior was rewarded with privileges like social outings, and “bad” with “emotionally painful punishments.”

Interviews with former charity residents and staff further indicated that the bulk of the abuse took place from 2014 to 2022 and mainly involved three employees identified as close associates of Father Antonios Papanikoalou. The witnesses “unanimously expressed the belief that Father Antonios had full knowledge of these practices,” said the report.

Father Antonios’ wife, Stamatia Georganti, who helped run the organization, is also accused of violating the children’s privacy by monitoring their social media, while staff often listened in on private conversations. Visits with family were also strictly controlled and often obstructed, the report said.

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