The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
“We believe that the solution to the problem will not come through a shallow political messianism but through a spiritual awakening of our nation,” told president of the Greek Evangelical Alliance to Evangelical Focus.
“The climate in society is mixed”, said George Kaloterakis, president of the Greek Evangelical Alliance in an interview with Evangelical Focus. Believers in the country do “face the same problems with their fellow countrymen and are often disappointed and disillusioned by the political system”. Nonetheless, believers hope “to find ways to influence Greece’s policies not only on issues pertaining to religious liberties but on ethical issues as well”.
International media still report about Greece in their front pages one week after the country voted for Syriza and changed its political leadership. What do Evangelical Christians in the country think about the situation? Do they trust Tsipras' government will be able to stop the social and financial crisis?
The Greek Evangelical Alliance (GEA) was contacted last week by EF with some of these questions. “Solutions to the problem will not come through a shallow political messianism but through a spiritual awakening of our nation”, thinks GEA's president George Kaloterakis.
“A FEELING OF EUPHORIA”
Question. Just after Election day, Greece formed a government and Tsipras became the new prime minister. What do people feel this week after the election? Is there fear or a positive feel?
Answer. Whenever a new government is formed there is a feeling of euphoria in many people as they hope that the new government will be better than the previous one. This tendency is enforced by the fact that for the past five years strict austerity policies were adopted that led to thousands of our fellow citizens experiencing a significant drop in their living standards.
Despite the fact that one can witness some early signs of recovery in the Greek economy, the situation remains dire for many segments of the population who put their faith in the anti austerity parties. Other people however fear that the new government, which is comprised by two parties that had adopted a fiery anti austerity rhetoric that questioned the bailout agreements signed by the previous governments, will make moves that will put Greece’s position within the European Institutions in jeopardy.
So far, the signals sent by the new government officials are mixed as it is not yet clear whether the new government will reach a compromise with its European partners. As a result, the climate in society is also mixed.
Q. Has there been any political party in Greece which has been respectful and has listened to the Evangelical community in the last years?
A. The Greek Evangelical Alliance always sought to have an open and frank relationship with parties and politicians across the political spectrum. Our efforts were quite fruitful. Last summer, the parliament passed a new bill that dealt with the legal recognition of all religious communities of Greece.
This new piece of legislation was very close to the positions and demands the Greek Evangelical Alliance voiced for many years and was supported by the coalition that formed the previous government (the center right “Nea Demokratia” and the center left “PASOK”), as well as by the left wing party SYRIZA who is now in power.
We are grateful to God for the new law which will help all Evangelical churches. We will continue to pray for the new government and we will try to find ways to influence its policies not only on issues pertaining to religious liberties but on ethical issues as well.
PRAYING FOR A DEEP SPIRITUAL CHANGE
Q. Do you think Christians in Evangelical churches wanted a political change or are they not hopeful to see any changes?
A. This is a difficult question to be answered as believers have different political points of view. Greek believers face the same problems with their fellow countrymen and are often disappointed and disillusioned by the political system.
However, our churches try to emphasize that the financial crisis Greece is now facing, has its roots in an ethical crisis that existed for decades. We believe that the solution to the problem will not come through a shallow political messianism but through a spiritual awakening of our nation.
Q. How can European Christians pray for your country?
A. First, we need to join with European Christians in prayer for a new spiritual awakening in Greece. This is what our country needs first and foremost. Our aim is not to convert every Greek to Protestantism but to be a catalyst for a deep spiritual change in our country.
We are very happy that there are true believers in the Orthodox Church who share the same view and we are proud to say that our relationship with the Orthodox Church has improved a lot lately.
Second, please pray for an improvement in the political and financial situation in the coming months. Apostle Paul in 1st Timothy urges believers to make “..requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving [...] for everyone-for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness”(1st Timothy 2.1-2). This is a prayer request for us as well.