By on April 11, 2015
Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides

After five years of crisis, it is unclear that worldwide Hellenism has risen to the occasion with regard to the challenge facing Greece.  To be clear, we have seen substantial humanitarian efforts on multiple fronts – by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, by Ahepa, by the Hellenic Initiative – and by several others.  But have we as a diaspora rallied sufficiently to these efforts?

No matter who you believe responsible for the depth of this economic crisis in Greece, and no matter what you think the right solution is, to minimize the humanitarian crisis the Greek people are undergoing is a sin.  Yes, Greece has several wrongs to right: there are those who have to pay more taxes; there are jobs that still must be shed; there are politicians and business elites that should be prosecuted for corruption.  But the burden of righting those wrongs is being disproportionately placed on those who have the least.  The tax burden on Greece’s poor has increased 377% since the beginning of the crisis.  The unemployed and pensioners who have seen their benefits drastically cut have their electricity cut off and have less and less food aid available.  In the meantime, you have European leaders who make statements indicating that this is just the moral penance that the Greek people must endure for voting in bad leaders over the years.  As northern Europe presides over the fraying of the European Union, their ambassadors in the U.S. make glib presentations with statements like “we may have been a little too austere” and “the Latins (i.e., the Southern Europeans) have problems living with austerity.”

Greek War Relief Fund

Greek War Relief Fund

Maybe the suffering would be worth it if the light at the end of the tunnel could be seen.  But it can’t.  The only things that the Greek people are offered by their European allies are admonitions that “it can get worse.”  It has become painfully obvious that punishment and imposing a form of moralism is as much a motive for Greece’s European partners as managing the debt.

Whether Greece stays in the euro and how it reshapes its economy is not up to us.  What we CAN do is give the Greek people a sense of solidarity that is lacking in the Union in which it belongs.  Nazi Germany once tried to starve Greece and the Greek diaspora’s response was one for the ages.  We just celebrated the famous heroes of 1821, but it is not their memory we should be invoking at this moment in time.  It is the memory of those Hellenes who organized the Greek War Relief Fund.  Millions of dollars were raised by the diaspora, and in two years these efforts reduced starvation in Greece by two thirds.

We are not able to create a better European Union; we cannot bring about necessary reforms to the Greek economy; and we cannot prevent all the pain and uncertainty that Greece still has to face.  But we CAN do something about the humanitarian crisis.  Our Greek-American forefathers did not allow Nazi Germany starve Greece.  We cannot allow a democratic Germany do so.

HALC will follow Ahepa’s lead and support its efforts to feed the hungry in Greece and provide medical supplies, as well as the efforts of the Church to provide direct food relief.  This Easter, commit yourself to making sure that the Greek people know that we have got their backs.  Maybe one day there will be posters reminding the world of how we stepped up.

About Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), a national advocacy organization for the Greek American community. To learn more about HALC, visit www.hellenicleaders.com