I didn’t grow up in an area with many strikes. I can recall unions going on strike in a few factories and a couple of schools… but not regularly and usually not basic public services (e.g. mass transit, hospitals, government offices). So, even after three years in Athens, I’m still not accustomed to all the strikes. I can’t even begin to count the number of strikes that we’ve seen in the last few years – from trash collectors to pharmacists, from mass transit to teachers (and sometimes students!). Sometimes the unions here strike until the issue is settled; sometimes they are “rolling strikes” – striking for just one day or even just a few hours each week.
Earlier this year the depth of the economic crisis in Greece became evident. Then came the EU and IMF bailouts, both of which had strings attached – changes and cuts were mandated. Hard decisions had to be made (and are still being made). So, taxes are going up (23% sales tax); benefits are going down. The retirement age is increasing; the pension payout is decreasing.
As you can imagine, many people are unhappy about this. There seems to be a sentiment that those who are responsible are not being held accountable (mostly politicians who mishandled money, who lied about the debt, and who flat out stole). So, this week we’re preparing for more strikes! It certainly feels like there has been some kind of strike every week since we returned to Greece in April!
So, what does this do to our ministry? It throw our schedule into knots! Sometimes we are forced to cancel events. Sometimes we have to change our schedule last minute, which usually creates more than a few headaches. Our lives here depend on public transportation (only a few teammates have cars… and there are also restrictions on what days you can drive into the center). Please pray for us during these times – for our flexibility, our patience, and the entire country!