Church groups urge EU to help Greece in crisis

GENEVA Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:07pm GMT

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis and growing racism, two international church groups said on Thursday, and appealed to the European Union to help the struggling nation.

In an open letter from Greece, the secretaries-general of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) said the country faced youth unemployment of over 50 percent and basic services were at risk.

Noting the EU had been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize, they said: "The economic and humanitarian tragedy today in Greece challenges the EU as a peace builder for the next generation."

Olav Fyske Tveit of the WCC and Guy Liagre of the CEC urged EU leaders to give "urgent and proper attention to the emerging humanitarian crisis in Greece."

The Geneva-based WCC and CEC represent Christian churches in the world and in Europe respectively, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church. Their leaders met government officials and Greek Orthodox Church leaders during their visit.

European leaders were due to meet in Brussels from Thursday for difficult negotiations over EU spending in the period 2014-2020.

"In Greece, basic human services such as health care and even the availability of medicines are at severe risk," the letter from the WCC and CEC said.

"Together with the Church of Greece, we also take seriously the political and societal implications of growing racism and extremism in Greece," it said. "These are storm clouds on the horizon that cannot be ignored or wished away."

(Reporting By Tom Heneghan; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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