|Photo by Philly boy92, via Wikimedia Commons|
Yes, it seems clear that Greece cannot pay its debts. Yes, it was likely that in the past Greek governments were not entirely transparent about their financial situation. Yes, there was a huge degree of overspending when there was little in the coffers but borrowed money anyway. Yes, there was likely no culture or consistent enforcement of tax collection. A litany of mistakes could go on.
But it was not the hard-hit pensioners and workers (those that still have jobs) that negotiated huge bailout loans, for which there now seems to be a ruthless demand for repayment. Our priests, lay ministers and parishioners of our Anglican Churches in Greece certainly do not report that the people benefited from the loans. It is likely that the bulk of these funds were sent out of the country right away to pay off other creditors. On the other hand, austerity has increased the suffering of the people.
I am not an economist, and have a very limited understanding of all these things. I do recall that both economic prosperity AND social justice were central pillars of the EU vision. But it is not as an economist, merely as a pastor and bishop in this diocese that I urge us all to pray for those in the Greek government, the EU institutions, the European Central Bank and the IMF. There is no shortage of great minds, or economic and technical expertise, surely! Have we tried a creative, even a risky solution - perhaps one that has never been tried before for fear of overturning global economic principles? I can't help thinking about the NRSV translation of the Lord's prayer in St Matthew 6.12: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Churches, especially the Orthodox Church, with whom we Anglicans in our small way seek to work alongside, have limited resources to respond to the scale of need. Let us in this Diocese continue to pray for our sisters and brothers in Greece, and for the work of all volunteers, clergy and lay ministers who are seeking to respond to those whose lives have been so seriously impacted by the measures imposed. Let us pray earnestly for a just and fair solution that does not cause even greater hardship.
God of all the world, give us wisdom in troubled economic times. May we never forget the true victims of financial crisis: those who go to bed hungry, those in utter despair. Strengthen all those who seek to bring your comfort and support to those in any need. Lead us all towards a fairer and more just world. And may your Kingdom come.
|The Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, Chaplain of Greater Athens|