Austerity measures likely to lead to further unrest in Greece

By February 14, 2012

Greece (MNN) — Greece broke out in some of its most dangerous riots yet on Sunday. The rioting is over for now, but the austerity measures that sparked them hold Greece's future in their hands.

Lawmakers approved a bill in a 199-74 vote in favor of more austerity measures, reports the Associated Press. The vote allows for the possibility that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund will support a 130 billion-euro ($172 billion) bailout for the indebted nation.

The alternative to further measures is bankruptcy. Although Greeks don't want that, Greek society will suffer the cost if the measures are upheld.

"The number of the unemployed is now over a million," says Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International, who points out that that's over 20% unemployment. "The new austerity measures mean that more people are going to lose their jobs, particularly in the public sector. Then in the private sector, the minimum wage is going to drop by about 22%."

The cuts were enough to push hundreds to the streets on Sunday in protest. More than 170 people were reportedly injured, and nearly as many businesses were destroyed. Fire charred at least 45 buildings.

More rioting is likely, says Ioannidis.

"The next 40 days are critical, because Greece still has to cut public spending even more. The next 40 days is the time when all of the negations with the European Union [will happen]…. It is reasonable to assume that there is going to be further unrest. Greece is going to be in a recession until at least the second half of 2013. So it's going to get worse before it starts to get better," observes Ioannidis.

Greek politicos have until tomorrow to say how 325 million euros of the 3.3 billion euros in budget savings will be achieved, reports Reuters. Euro zone finance ministers meet tomorrow to discuss but require Greek leaders to commit in writing to uphold the austerity plan, even after April presidential elections.

With no end of crisis in sight, people are devastated and desperate. Ioannidis says there are now a number of families without any employed adults. AMG's own hospital is suffering as the government is late in paying its normal dues to the institution.

Still, the hope of the Gospel is alive. The church is taking care of its hurting members, but also reaching out to others. St. Luke's hospital continues to get a response from their devotionals and Christian staff interactions. Believers are finding that people are especially open and responsive to the hope found in the Gospel message right now.

Pray that people would continue to look to Christ in this disaster, but pray for an end to the suffering as well. Pray for wisdom for Greece's leaders, and for wisdom at St. Luke's.

If you want to help AMG's St. Luke's Hospital, or support AMG's Christian outreach in Greece, click here.

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