In 1623, just eight years before his own death, the English metaphysical poet John Donne wrote several works that were published under the not-so-spiffy marketing title, “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.”
While few of us can recall most of what Donne wrote, most of us are familiar with a few of his lines.
We may remember that Donne was moved by a funeral procession and the ringing of a death bell; we may recall that, in the attempt to articulate the inevitability of death, he famously said, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Ernest Hemingway borrowed that line for a book title.
I thought of those words recently when a retired Greek pharmacist put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger in Syntaugma Square, just a few minutes from my home.
You probably heard about this, as well as the attached suicide note, in which the proud man said he would rather die than be forced to scavenge through the trash bins for food.
Most of the international news outlets picked up on this story and interpreted it as one more indication of the depths of the current Greek economic mess.
Days later, however, when another suicide happened in Greece, this one received precious little coverage.
A 38-year-old Albanian man, who likely already had experience rummaging through trash bins, jumped from the roof of a building after losing his Greek job and failing to find work in his native homeland.
These two stories and the differences in their coverage mirror the tragedy of the current Greek economic crisis and reflect the all-too-silent struggle of Albanians in this troubled country.
Without doubt, Greece’s economic problems are serious and seriously dislocating for everyone here – native-born Greeks as well as immigrants.
But recently, a think-tank in Greece concluded what we have known for some time; data now indicates that the economic upsets in this country are disproportionately felt among the immigrant population.
A researcher noted that “the Greek crisis has hit the hardest the economic sec- tors where migrants are largely employed.”
The construction trade in Greece, where many Albanian males work, has reduced by almost half its work-force, dropping from more than 400,000 in 2008 to barely 240,000 today.
Greek families, which once proudly hired Albanian women to clean their homes, are dropping that “perk” in their attempt to economize.
As a result, Albanians, whose payments into the Greek social security system have kept it afloat in recent years, are losing work in record numbers.
About 100,000 Albanians have now left Greece; their return to Albania offers little hope because unemployment in that impoverished country was already staggering.
Despite the difficulties, I can report to you that the present scene in Athens is a wonderful occasion for the unfettered and unabashed love of Christ. After all, John Donne also said:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. …”
BobNewell is ministry coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Athens, Greece. He blogs at ItsGreek2U. This article is taken from one that first appeared in the April 2012 edition of The Newell Post, Bob and Janice Newell’s monthly electronic newsletter.