16 July 2015
A letter from the Greek church
By Rev. Meletios B. Meletiadis, Pastor
The Greek Evangelical Church of Volos, Greece
Tuesday, 14 July, 2015
After five months of intense negotiations between the newly elected Greek government and the International Monetary Fund/European Commission, regarding the handling of Greece's huge foreign debt, many were hoping that the whole ordeal that kept Greece on the world news continuously for the past six years would end. Especially as 30 June was fast approaching when Greece had a 1.6 billion euro loan to pay to the IMF –but did not have the money.
Yet, it was not going to end like a fairytale. On Friday night, 26 June, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, having left the negotiation table in Brussels, announced his decision to hold a referendum on Sunday, 5 July, 2015 with the question posed to every Greek citizen: "Do you accept the proposed memorandum by the foreign lenders?" encouraging Greeks to vote 'no'.
Like the kick-off in a football game, the announcement heard spins at every level, both within the country and outside of it. The Protestant community of Greece could not avoid it and immediately. Division occurred. On one side were those who supported the PM's decision as they felt that it was a very good opportunity for the people to fan off their accumulated anger over a six year long period of austerity, which produced the opposite of the initially intended purpose as wages and pensions were severely cut, taxes increased immensely and unemployment grew horrifically.
On the other side were those who could not believe their ears when the PM announced the referendum. They felt numb and betrayed as all along they were being assured by the PM that the negotiations were coming to a good end, and fearful as to what it will follow in case the'no' vote wins.
The majority of the people in the Protestant community kept it to themselves, but a small number –unfortunately one or two with ministries under their care –went into a verbal confrontation on Facebook for the watching world to see and to witness an inter-evangelical fight, with strong feelings expressed in humiliating characterisations of those of the other side. As the week proceeded and the day for the referendum came the rhetoric became all the more polemic.
A rift was created, like the one among the non-evangelicals, which will be very difficult to mend and heal. With such a behavior one wonders if there's any difference between an evangelical who claims to be born again, who daily reads the word of God and trusts a Sovereign God, and a person with no personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, when the behavior is not different at all.
As the moderator of the executive committee of the Greek Evangelical Church, immediately after the referendum was announced, I felt that we had to both call the Church to prayer and fasting and ask the believers to abstain from any inflammatory or derogatory rhetoric. We asked them to pray all week fervently for our country, for the unity of our nation and for His will to be done even in a referendum that many believe was not necessary. Also, we put aside Saturday, 4 July as a national day of prayer and fasting. Many local churches organised special prayer meetings and vigils that night. Our call was welcomed by many other independent Protestant churches who adopted the call to prayer and fasting.
Since the day of the referendum many things have changed. The popular Greek 'no' vote, within a couple of days turned to be a 'yes' vote as the Greek government was forced to sign an agreement under the pressure of reality. Now, the task of implementing these extreme austerity measures is ahead, as well as the resulting opposition to them. Greece needs the prayer of many. The future will not be easy. Would you pray for Greece?
1.For the government to implement badly needed reforms despite fierce opposition.
1.For the unity of our nation and of the Brethren
2.For obstacles to be removed and investments to be made so that there will be employment for the many young people who are in their late 20s and early 30s and have not worked after their higher education.
3.For a spiritual reformation within the Orthodox Church. Unless the Orthodox Church changes there is no much hope that Greek society will change.
4.For the evangelical community, despite its small size to be a powerful lighthouse of the message of the gospel.
5.For the will of God to be done on Greece
Rev. Meletios B. Meletiadis