News for prayer for Week of September 19, 2022

Headline News:

Non-government organizations are seeing a decline in volunteers, especially in young people. Most of the new volunteers are those over 30. The last study of people that volunteered or helped socially was from 2017, with 14% of the general population participating. That was ~6% higher than when the study was done in 2012. The smaller organizations are really feeling the effects, while the larger organizations (Red Cross & Cáritas) seem to be stable.

Last time I talked about people feeling a pinch while in group settings, like a shot being injected into the body. The government reported that ~120 cases were reported. A majority of those occurred with women, though a small number was seen against men. Thankfully the blood analysis did not show any form of toxic substances. The government is still investigating several reports of assault from the summer.

The sexual abuse that happened in the Spanish Catholic church is getting some coverage. One case was escalated to the Vatican and the Pope pressed for reopening the case. The request was approved and the judicial system is once again going to look at the case. They are also continuing the investigation of the 201 cases that were reported. A committee of 17 members met with them and those results are being reviewed for next steps.

Economy:

The cost of living continued to be highlighted on the front page. Over the last year across energy cost, food, transportation, the return to school and a few other areas, costs have increased 400€ over last year. Another article talked about how food costs, across different products, have gone up 20% from September 2021 to September 2022. The grocery stores are seeing more and more people look at the generic brands to save costs. The 2.6% wage increases Spanish workers have seen between April and June of this year are the lowest in the EU.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 7984.70, a 0.60% decrease over the previous week.

Political:

The Spanish government made a request to the European parliament to include Euskera, Catalan and Galician as additional official languages for its sessions. Currently 24 languages are in the list. The Spanish government is willing to absorb the costs for the request.

The polling data for the month of September was released. The PSOE party had a small increase while the PP party saw a small decrease. The PP decrease is due to decreasing confidence in the leader Feijóo. Also, in the polls for leadership Pedro Sánchez, current president, was in third place behind Yolanda Díaz and Alberto Feijóo.

On Thursday September 22, the Basque legislature returned to session. For the first time in two years there are no restrictions for masks, social distancing, etc. Urkullu is looking to address the energy crisis and rising cost of living in addition to the regular items that will need to be addressed.

International:

Coverage was across these topics: Several articles about Queen Elizabeth II’s passing and crowning of King Charles, Russian Invasion of Ukraine, and Italy addressing challenges after recent elections.

Sports:

Real Sociedad has had 4 matches since the last edition. The result of those matches was 3 wins and 1 loss. This has them currently in 8th place overall in LaLiga. Last season they qualified for the Europa League competition, where they have won both matches played thus far. The next match is Oct 6 against Sheriff Tiraspol.

Gipuzkoa Basket has been playing a couple of pre-season games. One was against Basket Navarra which resulted in a 82-86 win. In addition, they are playing in the Basque LEB cup. The first game was last night against Zornotza and won 74-56. They will play tonight in the championship game against Juaristi Iraurgi.  The regular season starts on October 7 against Ourense.

The Spanish national teams have also been very active lately. The national basketball team won the Eurobasket tournament this year. A key player on the national team was Dario Brizuela, a native of Gipuzkoa. Additionally, the national soccer team is playing in the UEFA Nations League against Switzerland Saturday September 24.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Decline in volunteers for non-government organization
  • Basque legislature
  • Economic impacts

The verse for the week:

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.

James 5:13 NLT

News for prayer for Week of September 5, 2022

Headline News:

This section is a little longer than usual as I thought it was important to highlight additional items.

On Tuesday September 6 2022 Spain celebrated the 500th anniversary of the return of Juan Sebastián “Elcano’s” completion for circumnavigation of the world. The crew started out as ~250 and included Magellan. He was one of 18 that arrived back to Spain. He was a native of Getaria which is located in the Basque region of Spain.

Russia has officially turned off both NordStream1 and NordStream2. This is resulting in quite the energy crisis in Europe as those pipes provided a majority of the fuel for European countries. Spain was not very dependent though given the connected nature of the EU energy prices here are increasing. The Spanish/Basque government has been working to increase capacity at the different Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facilities to provide additional supplies for Europe, in the hopes to help offset some of the demand from Russia.

While some Ukrainian refugees have returned home, a large number are still in Basque Country. With school about to restart the Basque education system has received a total of ~770 requests to be enrolled in the Basque education system in the upcoming year.

A data poll for Spain showing the number of Catholic weddings, baptism and communions from 2009 and 2019 was published. Over that time period it’s been a drop in all of those areas. Catholic weddings have seen a 24% drop, baptism have decreased by 17% of births and communions have dropped the smallest at 8%.

Economy:

Basque people were shown to dedicate/pay the largest amount of money to buying food in all of Spain. The region currently has an average of 20% higher spending than the median average of Spain. Fortunately minimum wage in this area was also about 17% higher than the rest of Spain. They are also seeing people transition away from going to several of the local shops and instead heading to the larger supermarkets that have it all.

A highlight for the region of Gipuzkoa is that of the 88 total municipalities, 35 of them are debt free. They point to legislation for municipalities to control debts. The legislation was passed during the 2008 financial crises and they are seeing some positive results from the measure being in place.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 7932.20, a 1.63% decrease over the previous week.

Political:

The budget negotiations for the Basque government is planned to start in October. The primary focus will be economic activity/employment, and investments to ensure the future of the society and social services. They believe that the budget will be higher than the previous year given the increase in salaries and changes in energy costs, though nothing is for sure until the negotiations are complete.

International:

Here are a few of the international headlines: United States involvement with Taiwan, passing of former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the Chileans vote for a new constitution.

Sports:

Real Sociedad has had 3 matches since the last edition. The result of those matches was 1 loss, 1 win and 1 draw. This has them currently in 9th place overall in LaLiga. Last season they qualified for the Europa League competition, which starts the group stage Thursday, September 8 against Manchester United.

Gipuzkoa Basket will kick off the season on October 7 against Ourense.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Reduction of gas from Russia
  • Decrease in Catholic weddings, baptisms and communions
  • Budget negotiations

The verse for the week:

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:9 NLT

News for prayer for Week of August 15, 2022

Headline News:

The local director for Cáritas, an International organization belonging to the Catholic Church which is a service organization dedicated to combating poverty and other areas, was interviewed recently. He was sharing concerns given the high cost of living and amount of help families are needing. They are seeing that the numbers since the pandemic return back down as people begin to return to work. However, they are concerned with the cost of gas for people as they look to warm their homes in the winter. The people groups needing the most help currently are immigrants, women and young people.

With all the festivals happening in the different cities of Gipuzkoa, the police are having reports of at least 11 women being drugged by injections. They feel a pinch and when a blood test is run, they find that a chemical has been injected. Only 1 arrest has been made about the injections. They are also having reports of sexual assaults during the festivals.

Economy:

Several articles talked about the economic situation in Basque country. The expectation was that this summer everything would return to normal, however that is not the expectation now. With the energy concerns and rise in inflation several experts are expecting a complicated fall. One item that has seen a decrease of ~2.5% in the past several weeks is the cost of gas. A positive sign for the economy is the number of people that are working. Unemployment numbers are currently holding steady over the past couple of months even with the pending uncertainty. Spain ended the month of July with inflation being reported at 10.8%, the highest it’s been in over 20 years.

The IBEX35 ended last week on an upward trend closing at 8,400.40, a 2.85% increase over the previous week.

Political:

In 1968, during the Franco era, a law was put in place to protect the secrets of the state. However, that law is now undergoing some change. A new law has been written where a committee will review the secrets of the state and put it into 4 different categories. Additionally, it will carry another label for the potential severity of damage, which also has 4 categories. Depending on those labels, information will be able to be released after 20 years versus the previous law under Franco that was forever.

Recently Sánchez put an executive order for energy savings that went into effect on Aug 8 and will remain in effect until November of 2023. The order stated that in summer the AC for business and public places could be set at a minimum of 77ºF. For winter the heaters could be set at 66ºF max. Initially Urkullu was not planning to conform to the request, however by the end of the week they were willing to follow the request from the new orders. The fines for not complying could be as high as 60,000€ and will be enforced by the autonomous regions. Similar restrictions are now being done in Germany, France, Italy and Hungary.

International:

A sampling of the international headlines included the following: Russian invasion of Ukraine, rise in tensions in Gaza, FBI removing documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and Afghanistan 1 year after US’ departure.

Sports:

Real Sociedad finished preseason play and began La Liga play on Aug 14 against Cadiz CF with a 1-0 win. That had them in 3rd place at the end of the first week. Their next game has them playing Barcelona on Sunday Aug 21.

Gipuzkoa Basket starts official play on October 8.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Aggressions against women in festivals
  • Economic Situation

The verse for the week:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? … But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. (Psalm 13:1-2a, 5)

News for prayer for Week of July 25, 2022

Headline News:

Last week this area experienced a heat wave for several days. It resulted in a red alert given the high temperature. The temperatures were in the upper 90s to low 100s for those days. Many in this region do not have air conditioning so cooling off can be a bit of a challenge especially in the small towns. The heat wave saw an increase in forest fires for Spain that have affected hundreds of acres of land thus far. Thankfully the heat wave broke and temperatures have returned to be more pleasant.

The results of the selectivity exam have been sent to students and the application process for university has opened. The number of applications is over 19000 to attend the Basque University system. The score of the selectivity exam is competitive as it determines which field they can study. When applying the students have to rank the areas they’d like to study. Most will likely get to the second or third choice depending on which one’s they chose.

Economy:

Inflation over the last week was a headline item and also discussed in the political and economy sections of the paper. The political conversation was what the government can do to help the current situation as inflation is over 10%. In the economy section the Central Bank of Europe raised rates 0.5% the most it has done in 22 years in an attempt to limit the future impacts. This is after a 0.25% raise in June. The article shared how the Eurozone was in alignment with the policy moving forward to address the issue. It was also a headline article on Sunday sharing how people in Gipuzkoa have reduced spending by 7.5%. Additionally, stores are seeing consumers move to general brands versus name brands as they look for ways to save in stores.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a small upward trend closing at 8,051.60, a 1.33% increase for last week.

Political:

Urkullu, the president of the Basque Country, is looking for ways to build pacts with other parties as the region exits the COVID-19 situation and moves forward. Parties are looking to address areas that have not been addressed recently. They have seen success with political cooperation in the past with updates made to the education system. A couple of the concerning areas highlighted in the article were the public hospital system, increase in social program spending, birth rate (which was reported as one of the lowest in Europe) and minimum income. The problems with public health care were front page news, as people are needing to wait longer for emergency care and to visit the doctor.

The PP party continues to gain momentum in Spain. Last week the latest poll figures were released. It showed that for the first time with the new PP leadership of Tezanos, now having 1.9% advantage over PSOE. PSOE is the party currently in power of the Spanish government. The PP party gained 3.1% in the poll, while PSOE lost 1%. PSOE leadership under Sánchez is trying to recover before the next election cycle. The current trajectory for the next elections would be a year and a half, though that could change.

International:

Here were some key headlines: The heat wave that affected the United Kingdom, Italy and France where temperatures were over 100º F, Russian invasion of Ukraine with the EU taking additional sanctions, Political situation in Italy as it will be the 68th new government since WWII.  

Sports:

Real Sociedad has started its preseason play. Over the off season they had several new players added and are looking forward to the return of Oyarzabal after his knee injury last year. They have played two games with one being a loss and the other a draw. Two more preseason games exist before the start of the season on August 14.

The Tour De France ended on Sunday. The winner was Jonas Vingegaard, a 25-year-old who suffered from anxiety at the start of every stage. It was reported that his favorite race in his career was the Itzulia, which happens here in Basque Country, he specifically talked about the 2021 race where he had a mental change. He will also be racing in the San Sebastián Classic that happens this Saturday.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Economic impacts from inflation
  • Political unity
  • Heat wave impacts

The verse for the week:

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

2 Peter 3:9 NLT

News for prayer for Week of July 11, 2022

Headline News:

COVID has made its way back into the news. One area is the impact they are now seeing on the admittance to the hospital for assistance with mental health. They reported that those between the ages of 11 to 17 have seen the largest increase, 45% since 2019. In 2021 they have also seen a rise in the number of patients that need to re-enter within 30 days after leaving, with a majority of those being girls. The other is the number of cases due to summer festivals. In this region some type of festival/celebration will be happening every weekend through September. For the areas that have had a festival they have seen the number of cases double. Some are calling this the seventh wave as people have once again started returning to pharmacies to buy at home tests.

It has been 25 years since the assassination of Basque politician Miguel Ángel Blanco. The paper I read had a 24 page pullout walking through the events of the assassination. On Sunday a ceremony was held to remember the event. Those in attendance included King Felipe, President Sánchez, Iñigo Urkullu, leader of the Basque government, several other leaders from the Spanish and Basque governments and members of his family. This event changed people’s perception to be more against ETA in Basque Country and greater Spain.

Economy:

Inflation has gone over 10% as of June, the final number was 10.2%. Previous months had it in the upper 9% range, as discussed before these numbers continue to be the highest seen in over 40 years. One of the principal reasons for the increase was the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reduced availability of grains. These grains are basic ingredients in several items, one of them is feed for animals, which impacts meat prices as well. The government is attempting to figure out what can be done to address the issue.

With tourism starting to ramp up in the region the workers in the accommodations sector went on strike to improve some conditions. The agreement between workers and businesses had not been refreshed since 2019. Originally the strike was supposed to last for 3 days, fortunately it only lasted 24 hours. One key change was a pay increase of 0.8% in addition to inflation cost for 2022 through 2024. 

The IBEX35 ended last week on a slight downward trend closing at 8100.30,  a 0.93% decrease for last week.

Political:

On June 19 elections were held in Andalucia and the results were historic. The PP party won 32 seats and VOX gained 2. The absolute majority for the legislature is 55 so PP now has full control without needing an agreement with another party. Voter participation was at 58%, slightly higher than 2018. PP is also looking to see how they can have greater influence in Basque Country. PP is beginning to gain confidence about unseating PSOE as the currently prominent political party in Spain. 

International:

Here are a few key items from the international section here: French President Macron preparing the upcoming changes in government after his party lost the absolute majority, Boris Johnson, UK Prime minister, stepping down, and the assassination of Shinzo Abe in Japan. The Roe vs Wade decision got a special pull out on the Sunday after the decision was made, where the author was from Texas talking about the impacts the change has made in the state.

Sports:

The sports normally covered in this section are in the off season. One item of note is that San Sebastian is one of the 15 locations to be a host stadium for the 2030 FIFA world cup. The winner will be announced in May or June 2024.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Mental health
  • Impacts of rising prices on households
  • Political unity

The verse for the week:

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Romans 15:4 NLT

News for prayer for Week of June 13, 2022

Headline News:

The Spanish legislature is attempting to introduce legislation that would make prostitution illegal, as currently it’s not illegal and quite a gray area in the law. In Gipuzkoa it is estimated that ~700 people work in this industry. Most of them are from Brazil and Columbia. An organization that works with these women in Gipuzkoa is concerned that the new law will make it worse for these women and push them further to the fringe of society.

The Sunday paper included an article with interviews from 4 different people of Catholic faith. They were a young pastor, retired pastor, person of faith (catholic roots) and a catholic. The article title included the following statements: the church not being in style, problems of the church and Gipuzkoa becoming more secularized. All 4 of the people had hope and different suggestions for how the church could become relevant in society again.

Economy:

The restaurant businesses are quite concerned about the upcoming summer season because they do not have the wait staff to support the demand they are expecting this summer. This will be the first summer in 2 years that will not have restrictions on hours open, mask mandates or limits on maximum people inside/at a table. This industry was hit particularly hard during the pandemic and hiring of new staff has been slow for them. Options are being explored on how to help this industry including how foreigners, who may not have full residency, can be hired and changing the minimum wage.

The Central European Bank announced that at the end of July they will be raising interest rates. This will be the first time for a rate increase in 11 years. The current plan is for it to be 0.25%. They will monitor the inflation situation and may make another adjustment in September.

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 8,390.60,  a 3.83% loss for last week.

Political:

June 29 & 30 Madrid Spain will be hosting a meeting for NATO. The meeting will have leaders of 30 different nations visiting the city. Security for the event is a key item. The air space in Madrid will be restricted and the city will have an additional 35000 security personnel to ensure protection. The three areas they currently have concern about is an attack are: Jihadist, violent protest from opposition groups or a group upset about the Russian-Ukraine invasion.

The Spanish court system ruled last week that ETA prisoners would no longer be required to write an apology letter to victims as part of the transfer process. It was argued that some did not have definitive victims and it should not be required. The article ended with parts of a letter from a prisoner talking about his reflections of his actions.

The diplomatic relations between Spain and Algeria are a bit tense at the moment. Last week Algeria attempted to put some economic sanctions in place against Spain. They are saying this is due to Pedro Sánchez having conversations with Moroccan authorities to discuss some trade options. The EU is stepping in and trying to better understand the situation and help address the tension.

International:

The Russia-Ukraine invasion still has a good amount of coverage in the international section. Other articles were: Celebration of Queen Isabel II Platinum jubilee, another French election and US gun violence/control.

Sports:

The Spain National Team is currently playing in the UEFA Nations League Tournament. They are currently in League A Group 2, where they finished in 1st place. The next set of games will be in June of 2023.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Women working in prostitution
  • Church influence in Gipuzkoa
  • Basque Economy (Restaurants & workers)

The verse for the week:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2 NLT

News for prayer for Week of February 7, 2022

The cover page images for the 4 papers last week were the following: Rafa Nadal after winning the Australian open for his 21st Grand Slam, restaurant owner removing the sign about needing COVID-19 passport after the TSJPV ruled against them and results of the Real Sociedad game against Betis. The Sunday front page had two focuses with the top portion focused on the 40th anniversary of Ertzaintza (Basque National Police) and the other was child refugees from Greece and Syria being taken care of in Gipuzkoa.

Headline News:

COVID continues to be in the news as the government attempts to transition to the next phase of the pandemic. The COVID passport had been in effect since December and the government was looking to extend the use of it for a bit longer. However the judicial system did not agree with the further usage & expansion, so last week the need for a COVID passport was removed completely. This was the seventh time the judicial system did not support the recommendations of the government. The government has also started the process of returning 2.5 million euros that were collected from the fines issued during the various State of Alarms that have now been ruled unconstitutional. The numbers for the 6th wave are beginning to trend down, though the map for Gipuzkoa still is showing all red. The demand for home tests continues to be consistent, and is much lower than what was seen in early January.

The catholic church had two headlines. The first was more coverage surrounding the investigations of the abuse that happened in the Church. They highlighted that in February 2019, 4 cases of sexual abuse were reported for Gipuzkoa. For two of the cases, the priests had already passed away, and the other two cases were sent to Rome for further investigation. Another article talked about ~50 cases that have been reported in the last 50 years for Basque Country. The Sunday paper included a two page interview with a Criminal Investigator from the Basque University. It was very direct and talked about several different aspects of the abuse that happened. It also included thoughts about the way forward for the people and the church. Another article had one victim who raised concerns about the current process and he believes that no investigation will happen. The other headline was that the current bishop had his last service on Sunday after being the ArchBishop for 12 years here. The church was at maximum capacity of 60% due to COVID and also had people outside protesting with posters. He will be moving to Alicante.

Economy:

The outlook for 2022 for the Basque economy continues to look good. They are expecting the GDP for the region to be between 4.5% and 6% for 2022. They believe that 5,000 new jobs will be created. They also acknowledged that some sectors are still needing help (Restaurants and tourism) and are looking for solutions as those businesses are still being impacted. Cost of energy was also listed as a concern as that will also impact the profit margins for companies. 

The IBEX35 ended last week on a downward trend closing at 8,589.30, a 0.24% decrease for the week.

Political:

Two big political items were the focus last week. Both were items that were voted on in the Spanish legislature. The first were updates to housing laws, which were passed. It included protection for small home owners, incentives to help keep prices low, options for houses that are vacant and public housing. The measure was passed with the unity from the PSOE and Unidas Podemos parties. The second item was labor reform. For the past several weeks, it’s had at least one article in the paper. Effects from the labor reform impacted several areas: seasonal contracts, unemployment benefits, contracts for young people entering the workforce, among other areas. The measure barely passed with a 175-174 vote count. The headline talks of how a vote that made the decision was cast incorrectly telematically. This vote was from one of the senior leaders in the PP party, who have been vocal about not supporting the measure.

International:

Here are a few headlines from the international section over the week: The main focus was Russian & Ukraine border tension termed here: The ‘New Cold War’. Also included was the Portugal election with the surprise outcome and high voter turnout, the US attack against Hajji Abdullah, and a view from two different EU countries handling the COVID-19 pandemic: Denmark declaring the end versus Austria implementing fines for those unvaccinated.

Sports:

Real Sociedad played two games in the last week. The first was a King’s Cup match in which they played against Betis. The outcome was a 4-0 loss. With the loss that end’s Real’s attempt to win the King’s Cup in 2022. The other game was a LaLiga match where they played against Valencia, with the result being a 0-0 tie. That result left them in 7th place.

GBC had a game against Tau Castellón which was a 69-77 loss. They only scored 5 points during the third period of this game. The next game they played was against Almansa with the result of a 101-78 victory. The paper commented how it was a well played game for the team. The next game was against Real Valladolid, where the team secured another victory with a 85-71 victory. The team is currently in 6th place overall.

The Monday paper had a spotlight on Rafal’s career after his victory at  the Australian open. He is currently number 4 in overall career victories and 5th in the ATP rankings. I noted in the opening paragraph that he has 21 Grand Slam victories, along with a gold medal in the Olympics in both individual and doubles.

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • COVID-19 and it’s continued impacts
  • 2022 Outlook for the Basque Economy
  • Basque and Spanish political leaders
  • Leaders in the catholic church

The verse for this week focused on our paths in life. I thought this verse fit well:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14