Cyprus is running out of options

By April 12, 2013

Cyprus (MNN) — The economy of Cyprus is expected to shrink by around 9% this year, and its government needs to sell part of its gold reserves in order to meet the conditions of an EU-IMF bailout.

The problem is that the three main areas of income involve financial services, property, and tourism, all of which are more or less not working. Experts estimate the reality of the drop in GDP will be closer to 25% over the next couple of years.

The small country stands on the brink of the financial ruin. Its debts are high, its banks are crippled, and anyone who could have responded is without the power to do so. Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International' explains, "They had a lot of loans to Greece. So, when Greek bonds took a hit, Cypriot bonds lost a lot of money."

More bad news: Cypriots are beginning to realize that the bailout costs have jumped by almost $7 billion, and that they will have to find every last cent themselves. "They have been trying to get the European Union to help them with a bailout since then. The agreement they had with the European Union, in the end, is to close one of the two major banks on the island, which means that people that have deposits over 100,000€ are going to lose maybe up to 80% of their deposits," says Ioannidis.

He goes on to say that "in the other major banking on the island–the Bank of Cyprus, those with more than 100,000€ are losing anywhere between 35 to 60% of their deposits." Banks took precautionary measures to prevent runs, notes Ioannidis. "Basically, people's funds are frozen. That affects businesses, and it also affects ministries. There are a number of ministries that use Cyprus as their base. A lot of them have significant banking accounts."

Located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey, the island nation of Cyprus has a total population of 1.1 million people, less than 1% of which are Evangelicals.

AMG's areas of ministry in Cyprus include distribution of Greek Bibles and Christian literature, women's ministry, pastoral work, and radio broadcasts. Their radio ministry partners broadcast in Greek and English as well as Russian for the many Russian visitors to the island. For much of their coverage area, they are the only Christian voice on-air.

Ioannidis says with the current financial crisis, "It's hard to get money in to the banking system in Cyprus, and it's hard to get money out of the banking system. So that is presenting practical operational difficulties for ministries there."

After 15 years on the air, AMG finally got permission to expand in 2012. The timing for building and equipment installation was an answer to prayer. Ioannidis says, "We finished with the expansion stage just before this crisis hit. We are grateful that we did not experience any losses in the banking system. We were able to do what we needed to do and now, the Gospel in the midst of this crisis is heard across the entire island."

Combining Christian messages and music with news and discussion of issues that concern Cyprus from a Christian perspective, the station is heard in many places on the island in both Greek and English languages. Programs include devotionals, the reading of the New Testament in English and Greek, "Focus on the Family" with Dr. James Dobson, and other biblical family programming. There is even a program in Russian because there are so many Russian business people as well as tourists that come to Cyprus.

Ministry partners are broadcasting nationwide (with additional plans in the future to reach as far as Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel). However, Cyprus is a difficult field for the Gospel. AMG coworkers are preparing for the second wave of the crisis. "The humanitarian side of the crisis has not yet hit. That will happen in the future, so there will be a lot of job losses and a lot of people that will be hurting. But that will be in the coming months."

Pray for wisdom for AMG's Cyprus team. They're going to be facing some extreme challenges in the days ahead even as opportunity flowers. "As this crisis hit, there is a lot more response to the message of the Gospel. We need to pray for our coworkers as this crisis is also an opportunity to point people to Jesus."


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