Sunday, December 14, 2008

Protests & Riots Continue

Well, I have a few things to tell you about today.
  1. Visa. I got all my paperwork submitted and will be receiving a 5 year visa in a month or two! This keeps me from having to exit and reenter the country every 90 days, saving both time and money. I was given a paper to verify my legal status until my official visa arrives. It took a little over a week to get everything the city hall requested, so I actually received my paper on the last day that I could legally be in the country! If they hadn't given me the paper that morning, I would have had to have flown to another country for a day or two. It was a good morning.
  2. Language. I have one more week of my second language course. My next course will start Jan. 12. I am looking forward to the time between classes to review and practice more of what I've learned.
  3. Riots. We have had 7 days of protests and riots with this possibly being the 8th. My family was asking how close we are to the action, and I told them that we live far away and not to worry. Well, I was right in telling them not to worry, but I also want to give them an idea of how far we are from the center of Athens. So, I google mapped/directioned our apartment to Syntagma Square which is in the center of Athens. About 6 miles. Admittedly, closer than I thought. Growing up in the States, that seems like nothing. But, from our apartment to the center there are no open spaces and no highways. So, six miles of building after building, stoplight, stoplight, stoplight...six miles seems like a long ways.
    I hadn't had any encounters with protesters or rioters until this past Friday. I was on my way to class and got caught in a mess of traffic. My first thought was that the public transportation must be on strike. After a while of going nowhere I thought there must be a car accident. A little while later a police officer on a motorcycle drives through the parked cars (this, by the way, is how all the bikes drive here). Later on an ambulance forces it's way through the traffic with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Must be an accident right. Wrong. I finally reached a point where I could see what was going on. About 50 or 60 teenagers were blocking the road. They had pushed trash dumpsters under the streetlights in an intersection. Some were sitting on the dumpsters, others were blocking traffic by just standing in the way. And then, there was one guy who was selecting people to go through. Only two or three cars were allowed through at a time. When this 16 year old kid pointed to me and shouted back at his friends, they moved aside enough for me to squeeze through. I couldn't believe what was happening! I couldn't believe the cop that drove by didn't do anything. This is a small picture of what is happening all over the country. The police are handling these situations as if they have been disarmed and stripped of authority.
    I have more to say about this topic than should be legal to post. So, if you have a question or a comment or something to throw out for discussion, please post a comment.
    Our prayer for the Christians here and the churches is that we would view all of this through the lens of Christ. There are some fundamental root issues behind all this mess that need to be addressed. We pray that we are a part of the healing and the solution. We pray for deeper understanding and appropriate action. Please pray with us for this nation!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Riots in Greece

We are okay. Many of you who have heard about the situation here in Greece have asked if we are okay. We don't feel that we are in any danger. I will tell you a bit about what is going on, but understand, I don't have a full picture of all the reasons and history behind the current upheaval. The catalyst to this particular upheaval was the deadly shooting of a 15 year old boy by a police officer. This officer and his partner were in their patrol car when 30 youths rushed their vehicle. The officer claimed he was firing warning shots, but some witnesses claim he shot directly at the boy.

For starters, understand that a great number of people here are frustrated and angry with a government they accuse of being corrupt and self-seeking, not caring about the people. I can't tell you the number of strikes that have gone on since we have been here, only for three months. There was a Customs strike when we first arrived that prevented anything from coming into or going out of the country. This diverted our container and caused us problems, but also, it drained this area (Attica) of 95% or more of gasoline. I waited 40 minutes in line one day for 30 euros of gas, as they were forced to ration it out. The metro has been on strike several times. A workers strike is going on Wednesday which affects many people in many ways. One example is a friend of mine who had to postpone his flight because of the strike! So, all this to say, there exists quite a tension between the people and the government, and the people continue to seek to make their voices heard.

As for the violence, much of this can be attributed to Anarchists. Demonstrations and protests happen quite often in the city. Most of the time they are non-violent, although sometimes violence erupts. It seems that this erruption of violence can many times be attributed to the anarchists.

So, is this happening where we live? Has it affected us? The only activity I know that has happened in our section of Athens is that last night a number of youths were throwing rocks at the police station. This was the scene at many police stations all over Athens, as well as many other cities in Greece. Sunday night we had a worship event scheduled with Hellenic Ministries, but had to cancel. The ministry building is located in the center of Athens and is in a pretty volitale area in times like this. So, the word got out to cancel the night of worship for everyones safety. Not only that, but the roads were blocked off as well. The only other direct effect was the thick traffic this morning because of closed roads. Many roads were closed as they needed to be cleaned up. Several shops, banks, storefronts, etc. have been damaged and burned.

Wow, what a post! Gloom and destruction. But, I got to tell you, it's ten o'clock at night, I'm typing on the laptop, Nikki is cooking dinner, Ashtyn is sleeping, and in our home... it is quiet. Thank God, for the simple things. Today, I walked up to the rooftop of my school to take a look out over the city. From the top you can see the beautiful mountains, the open sky and the sprawl of the city. Can you imagine the heartache of God when He looks over this city, over this world, full of people he created in His image, and sees and hears and feels the brokeness of the people. But can you also imagine His excitement and joy when we become his hands of healing!