|Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, Mrs Christine Saccali|
While EU leaders struggle to find ways forward through the current crises in the Eurozone, the news from the ground, from our congregations in Greece, reveals feelings of fear and anger among the people.
This week two members from Greece on the Bishop’s Council, the Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, in charge of the Greater Athens Chaplaincy and Mrs Christine Saccali, a Reader licensed to that chaplaincy gave reports on the situation in their country. According to Fr Malcolm, the overall level of social deprivation in Athens is growing rapidly. The austerity programme imposed consists of some very severe measures, and these have been implemented so rapidly that there has been no time for the general population to adjust their household budgets and lifestyles. Ironically, it is the very narrow band of people in Greece who actually pay income tax, such as civil servants, who are finding the measures very burdensome. With the cuts, the average family must now try to get by on about €450 per month. The sudden impoverishment of many in the parish has meant that fund-raising activities have had to be cancelled.
Fr Bradshaw commented that the media images related to the strikes and protests have generally been portraying activities of anarchist groups. The general strikes and protests have been largely peaceful, but these are frequently hijacked by the involvement of such groups. There have recently been two worrying “pitched battles” around St Paul’s Anglican Church in Central Athens, involving projectiles and Molotov cocktails.
Mrs Saccali spoke of the uncertainty which comes from having no idea about the ultimate level of cuts to be implemented. It makes household budgeting impossible as it is not clear from day to day what the new household tax burden will be. Pensioners are facing vastly reduced pension payments. The result is an angry and fearful people – suicide rates are up, for instances. “May God put his hand on this situation”, said Christine, quoting a common Greek saying.
The prayers of the diocese are encouraged for the people of Greece in this time of social and economic upheaval.
Gracious God, give us wisdom and compassion in troubled times. Listen to the cries of your people whose lives have suddenly become uncertain and whose daily struggle has become more difficult. Strengthen those who minister in the midst of unrest and help them accompany your people through crisis and fear. Hear us in your mercy and bring your peace and justice to a world in turmoil.