International Roma Day, April 8, 2011

International Roma Day, April 8, 2011

Ecumenical Season of Prayer and Thanksgiving for Romani people leading up to International Roma Day, April 8, 2011

Formerly known as “Gypsies” (a pejorative term) today’s Romani people could be called “the Samaritans of Europe.” Marginalized, stigmatized, feared and even loathed, Roma often are moved or deported against their will. They have routinely been denied their rights as EU citizens by their neighbors and by the governments who represent them.

A history of exclusion:
Romani history includes migration, legal enslavement, extermination, separation from children, and forced sterilization. Most Roma now are settled. Few are “traveling people” except when others force them to move on, often by bulldozing or burning Roma settlements.

What has been their response? Romani musicians embrace much of human experience in their songs, but the Roma have no war songs.

A present of denied access:
In some countries, Romani children are denied access to equal education. Families suffer from lack of job opportunities, access to health care and police protection. Many do not have safe, secure housing or a steady supply of food and clean water. Violence by racist and vigilante groups against Roma and Romani settlements is all too common. Some communities have erected physical walls–barriers to free movement.

And deep need:
Monies allocated by governments to serve the Roma routinely fail to reach those most in need. This past winter has been unseasonably cold and rainy. Romani families in settlements and ghettoes have been challenged to keep warm and well.

April 8 is International Roma Day.
From March 30 to April 8, for ten days, Christians in the US and abroad will be offering up prayers and thanksgiving for the Romani people of Europe, including those in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Karpath-Ukraine, Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain. Each day of the prayer cycle will focus on a particular country and on specific needs, as articulated by Romani Women, themselves.

To prepare for this season of prayer:
Groups can begin to develop their awarenessof the political situation of Roma in Europe and elsewhere.