Area 131,957 sq.km. Southernmost part of Balkan Peninsula in SE Europe and 150 inhabited islands in the Ionian, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. The islands constitute 20% of the land area.
Capital Athens 3,150,000. Other major city: Thessaloniki 998,000. Urbanites 66%.
Greek 90.8%. The descendants of the ancient Greeks whose civilization so enriched the world. Including: Pontian Greeks (fSU) 200,000; US/foreign Greeks 105,000; Cypriots 15,000.
Indigenous minorities 4%. Many being absorbed into Greek society: Slavic 150,000; Turk 140,000; Roma (Gypsy) 200,000+; Vlach 60,000; Albanian 25,000.
Immigrants and refugees 5.2%. Albanians 400-500,000; Middle Eastern (Arabs, Iranians, etc.) 50,000; British/US 50,000; German 19,000; Armenian 10,000.
Literacy 95.2%. Official language Greek. All languages 14. Languages with Scriptures 6Bi 2NT 2por.
EU membership has boosted tourism, industry and modernization. Greece has the largest fleet of merchant ships in the EU. Efforts to join the euro-currency is bringing some fiscal discipline to the economy. HDI 0.867; 27th/174. Public debt 15% of GNP. Income/person $11,640 (37% of USA).
Nearly four centuries of Turkish rule ended with independence in 1827. The last 50 years have been punctuated by two civil wars, two military dictatorships, and tensions with neighbouring Turkey over the political status of Cyprus. A republic with a parliamentary democracy. The instability and ethnic hatreds of the post-Communist Balkan countries has unsettled Greece. Shared earthquake experiences with Turkey have significantly reduced tensions between these NATO members.
The Orthodox Church is recognized and legally protected by the state as the dominant and established religion. The constitution of 1975 removed some of the discriminatory legislation against non-Orthodox bodies, but old laws remain which are used to hinder non-Orthodox activities and persecute Protestants. Greece regularly loses cases when such are taken to the European Court of Justice, thus gradually lessening restrictions on religious minorities. Persecution index 62nd in the world.
2 After centuries of confrontation between Greece and Turkey, the unexpected lowering of tensions since the Istanbul earthquake of 1999 opens up real possibilities for resolution of such intractable problems as the division of Cyprus.
1 Greece was the first European country to be evangelized (Acts 16:10), but Christianity is now more cultural than spiritual, with only 2% of the population in church on an average Sunday. Evangelical church members number only around 15,000. The Macedonian call is just as valid today.
2 The Orthodox Church was a focal rallying point in the dark years of Turkish and German occupations. Orthodoxy became part of the Greek identity and made Greeks often xenophobic. All other expressions of Christianity are seen as a threat to the state and the culture. Greeks have a high regard for Orthodox institutions but are little involved in church activities. There is a godly, committed minority with a personal faith, but the great majority are in ignorance of the message of the gospel and are most unreceptive to any non-Orthodox witness. Pray for the breaking down of prejudice, blindness and fear and for biblical renewal in Orthodoxy.
3 Discrimination, harassment and persecution of minorities still happens especially those who 'proselytize' Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Pray for cultural and legal equality for the non-Orthodox that is consistent with Greece's membership of the EU and for the constitution to be changed to grant full religious freedom.
a) Courage to witness in a society that generally despises, and occasionally persecutes, them. The media often portray Evangelicals as disloyal, dishonest and a security threat. Jehovah's Witnesses have been far more successful.
b) Unity in the Spirit. There have been a number of debilitating divisions. The Pan-Hellenic Evangelical Alliance is increasingly recognized as the mouthpiece of Evangelicals and is becoming more pro-active in challenging official discrimination.
a) The 150 islands. The majority of the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, the Ionian Islands and others are without evangelical congregations. Corfu and Crete are among the only exceptions. HM use their yacht The Morning Star for evangelizing these isolated communities.
c) Albanians, who have flooded into Greece during the 1990s seeking seasonal employment, many of them illegally. Involvement in smuggling and criminal activities means high numbers end up in prisons. Pray for more Christians to minister to this underclass in society.
d) Immigrant communities in the Athens area. There are several outreaches and small Christian groups among the Arabs, Ethiopians and others, but few of the present opportunities are fully used. Greece is a key base for ministry to the Arab world.
e) Indigenous ethnic minorities in the north. They are officially ignored, and their cultural identity denied a reflection of centuries-old Balkan conflicts. Pray for a change in Greek attitudes and fears and for effective outreach to the Albanians and Vlach and to the Muslim Turks, Roma (Gypsies) and Bulgarian-speaking Pomaks.
8 Foreign missions have not found Greece an easy field because of strong nationalism, visa restrictions and the high degree of cultural adaptation required. Major ministries are: GEM (14 workers), HM (13 expats, 6 nationals), CCCI (13), AoG (10), WEC (7). Greece's EU membership facilitates the residence of missionaries from other member states. Pray for labourers and for their adaptation, ministry and fruitfulness in often discouraging circumstances.
9 Literature has been a fruitful form of evangelism. There is little variety in Christian literature available. Pray for the seed-sowing work of the Greek Bible Society and the Gideons in disseminating the Scriptures, and SU in producing good Bible reading aids which are used by both Orthodox and Evangelicals. Pray also for the tract distribution ministry of EHC and East Europe Mission; tracts are read.
10 Christian Radio and TV. Some evangelical programmes have been aired including the JESUS film. The legalization of private radio stations allowed both Pentecostals and Evangelicals to start FM stations. The latter in Athens was forcibly, but illegally, closed in 1999. It has since been allowed to continue its ministry. Pray for the best use of these media and for effective impact.
11 The large Greek diaspora totals nearly 5 million in 88 countries: USA 2 million; Germany 500,000; Australia 272,000; Britain 220,000; Canada 132,000; Italy 100,000; South Africa 72,000. It is both a challenge for evangelism (there are evangelical Greek churches in Australia and USA), and a good source of Christian workers for Greece itself.
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