Greek boy playing music for money. (Photo found on Flickr, credited Space Shoe)
Greece (MNN) ― Painful austerity measures in Greece and economic drama are exacting a deadly toll on the nation.
In the fifth straight year of recession, poverty has deepened, unemployment has hit an unprecedented 18% (with over 42% affecting the 25 to 40 age group), and crime has skyrocketed. Wages have fallen by a third since 2009 and are set to slide a further 15% in the next three years.
Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International says, "As a result of the austerity measures--which include salary cuts, which include reductions in pensions, which include the lowering of the minimum wage, a lot of people very suddenly are seeing their income go down, and they cannot meet their obligations."
The economic crisis also brought on severe depression, and that has been reflected in despair. Ioannidis says, "There is an increasing sense of desperation on the part of many people. The number of suicides over the last year has doubled, and that is indicative of the desperation that exists in Greece."
The austerity measures have seen one in eleven people in Athens using soup kitchens daily, and other supplies are beginning to cost more than the average person can afford.
Ioannidis says, "We are partnering with churches to minister to people's daily needs such as food and basic household items. As more people come to us seeking help, we are seeing a lot more openness from people understanding that we are doing this because we are showing Jesus' love to them."
AMG's St. Luke's Hospital in Thessaloniki has been weathering the crisis better than the government-run hospitals, which are not receiving cash flow from the government. Two suicides earlier this month drew attention to the pain the austerity measures are causing, which could affect the outcome of the May 6 elections.
The Prime Minister hopes that the elections will form a new parliament, expected to convene by May 17. Their job: pass more reforms that would enable more bailout funds. However, Ioannidis says, "There is a lot of fragmentation. It shows people's anger toward politicians. It shows lack of faith that the existing parties can deal with this. There will likely be a coalition government after the May 6 election."
Either way, the pressure is mounting on the AMG team. The situation has put a severe strain on their Greek ministries. Even as AMG celebrates the 70th anniversary of their ministry's presence in Greece, the team feels that the needs are the same as in the beginning of this ministry in 1942. "They need wisdom as they deal with people who come asking for help. As you can imagine, it's very emotionally draining to see these needs on a daily basis. The need is overwhelming. They need prayer for wisdom on how to allocate the resources that are available to us."
AMG wants to organize a distribution of weekly "Bundles of Hope" to families and individuals in need, in cooperation with local churches. This is an emergency response. "The crisis is hitting its peak this year. Hopefully, with God's help, sometime next year things should start to improve. So please pray fervently for Greece and do what you can to support the needs of the Greek people financially."
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