Athens as a City
The ancient city of Athens with 3400 years of history is a puzzle of many pieces. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state and is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent. Dominated by various empires for over 2,000 years, by the time of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, Athens had been reduced to a ramshackle village of around 4,000 inhabitants.
One word that could characterize Greece is change or instability. In the past century, Greece has endured 7 wars. These wars, along with huge population exchanges and migrations, changes in types of government from kingdoms to republics to dictatorships to democracy, and most recently an economic and refugee crisis, have left a palpable feeling of uncertainty in all of society. Even so the Greeks are known for their joyful hospitality, great food, long conversations over coffee and love for the foreigner.
Greece was largely a homogenous with Greeks making up over 98% of the population until the mid 1980s. After that time, with the fall of communism in surrounding countries and a consistent flow of immigrants and refugees, Greeks now make up approximately 90% of the population. This number is potentially much lower due to the large number of illegal immigrants and as one walks through downtown Athens, the person encounters a very diverse population.
Today, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis of 3.1 million people. It is the southernmost capital in continental Europe. Athens has the largest container port in the Mediterranean and largest passenger port in Europe. The culture is greatly affected by refugees and immigration past and present. Half of school children are immigrants! Unemployment in Greece is 25%, rising to 50% for young people.
The Need In Athens
Greek Orthodoxy is the dominant religion (70-80%) with Atheism (10%) and Islam about 10%. This means the city has a large number of church buildings where candles are lit and holidays celebrated. Sadly, most of these people visit a church only a few times each year, and lack a personal relationship with God. Evangelicals are 0.5% of the population.
Evangelical churches are small and few. One new church plant meets in an upstairs apartment in the Anarchist neighborhood, while a few blocks away a church is being planted in a shared office space.
There is a great need in the city for laborers with a 2 Timothy 2:2 mindset to engage various micro-cultures within the city. In a city where Paul preached about an “unknown god”, today hundreds of Muslims are hearing about Christ in a land dominated by Islam for centuries.
Serve In Athens
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