Greek crisis drives up despair, suicide rates

By April 25, 2012

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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