This was originally posted by my husband on our blog about Greece, http://grace4greece.com. I thought it might shed some light on the situation for all of you out there watching what the news is saying about Greece.
Right now, Greece has the feel of a slow motion fall from an action movie. Greeks gather groceries like Americans with shopping carts so full, their european sized refrigerators will be overflowing with food. They are also making strategic moves with the limited cash that they have, seeing as most ATMs show, “Temporarily out of service.” As I bought my pills from the local pharmacy today the normal pleasantries from my pharmacist of “good” were broken with an explanation of his situation. He shared how he needs to access change for customers but the banks are closed and are only offering a daily maximum withdrawal of 60€, even though most ATM’s don’t dispense anything but 50€. He told me that he would be fine for a few days, but not for weeks.
There is much debate over who is to blame. Can we point to the relentless austerity imposing figures of Germany and the IMF? Perhaps the non-compromising Syriza? Why would they walk away so close to an agreement? Over the last four years we have had a unique vantage point since we have lived in Greece through the midst of these troubles and have seen with our own eyes the pain and frustration that our Greek friends go through. With this upcoming referendum that Prime Minister Tsipras sprung on everyone at 1am on Saturday morning, we have many friends on both sides of the “yes” or “no” vote.
On Saturday in the pre-dawn hours I had been awoken by a text from my friend in Kalamata that said, “Go to the ATM and get your money now! SOS.” I quickly googled Greece and found out that Tsipras announced a vote of whether to stay in or out of the Euro. Greece owes an IMF debt repayment on Tuesday of 1.6bn€. Syriza came to power in January 26, on a platform of stopping austerity and bringing “hope” to Greece. Since then he has been negotiating with the IMF to reach a better agreement.
From my perspective it troubles me that there is and has been significant outside influence as to the direction that Greece should take as a nation. Jean-Claude Juncker said four days before the election, “that the commitments which have been made by Greece will be respected by any new Greek government.” (1) Angela Merkel ruled out debt cuts just 6 days after Syriza was elected. (2) “Germany and the IMF are making an example out of Greece so as to warn Spain, Portugal, and Italy not to revolt,” one of my friends told me yesterday. This was not the first time I had heard this opinion from a struggling, hard-working, Greek national. As Syriza has gained more and more popularity over the past few years a common thread has emerged. Every time popular media or the IMF speak of Syriza they mention “Far left” in the same breath. It is quite interesting considering that Merkel and the IMF, with their relentless austerity and measures, could easily be considered “far right.” I suppose what troubles me most is the underhanded (sometimes not so much) way in which they treat the Greek people as a whole: as though they were some lazy society that wants hand outs for all the problems they have caused themselves.
Let us take a look at what some facts have to say about that forgone conclusion. Citing the OECD annual work hours data, Greece worked 2nd overall with 2,037 hours. To give a comparison the U.S. is 1,788 and Germany is 1,388. (3) Greeks are actually very hard workers and do anything they can to find a job and keep it despite an unemployment rate of 52% for 15-24 years old, 34.5% for 24-34 years old, and 26% for 15 years and over (4). In addition to their hard working nature, they are also very generous. Greek people are ingenious and will find cheap solutions to a problem rather than trying to up-sell you. There have been many times I taken my car to the local mechanic where he quickly runs a diagnostic, fixes a small wiring problem, and sends me on my way without charging a cent, despite my insistence. Greece feels like a small village where everyone knows everyone and they want to help each other out.
Greece as a nation along with Greek culture extends back into antiquity and has been occupied by various empires, forced monarchy, and military rule via Nazi Germany and military Junta. The fact that Greece has been able to keep their culture is a testament to the very nature of the Greeks and their relentless perseverance. Winston Churchill said, “Until now we used to say that the Greeks fight like heroes. Now we shall say: The heroes fight like Greeks.”
I do not know which way the referendum on Sunday will go. Either way it will certainly bring continued pain and suffering to the people of Greece. If they vote “no” then it will mean the end for Greece and the Euro, but perhaps that will mean financial sovereignty even if it is at a heavy cost. If the Greeks vote “yes” that would almost certainly mean the end for Syriza and their stand against the IMF. It would also mean elections and a further delay for the government in it’s negotiations with the EU. It would also be an unknown in regards to further austerity and measures. I have friends on both sides of the referendum. Being a non-Greek I would ask that you would have compassion on the people of Greece and see them as human beings backed into a corner. They are presently faced with a decision between relentless austerity or the complete unknown of leaving the Euro currency. Let the country that birthed democracy take destiny into their own hands. Please pray for the Greek people that God would give them wisdom to vote. Join us in our prayers that they would see the hope that Jesus Christ gives and that they would walk in that hope.
“Greece is the symbol of the tortured, bloodied but live Europe.. Never a defeat was so honorable for those who suffered it.” -Maurice Schumann (From a message of his he addressed from the BBC of London to the enslaved peoples of Europe on 28 April 1941, the day Hitler occupied Athens after Greece fought a 6-month war)
Please continue to pray for God to guide us as a family, and to guide Greece as a nation.
For more reading:
Soapbox Greeks, beware of ‘adults in the room’
Europe’s Attack on Greek Democracy
Greek Bailout Fund on Indiegogo
What happens if Greece defaults on its International Monetary Fund loans?