The Roma people of Europe will be the theme of an upcoming mission study.  At the UN World Conference on Racism in 2001, the human rights of Roma was seen as a key racial justice issue.  The Roma have been systematically excluded from jobs, the economy and the society in Central and Eastern Europe.  Now, with internal open borders within the European Union, and the addition of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, Roma are migrating to France, Belgium and elsewhere in search of work.  French President Sarkozy recently razed camps and flew a group of Roma back to Romania.  Many plan to return.  The situation is creating increasing tensions in the EU.  It is important to explore the conditions at home that cause people to migrate, if global migration issues are to be addressed in a comprehensive way that respects human rights.
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Sastipe!  Or “Hello!” in the traditional language of the Romani people.
The Roma (sometimes spelled Rroma.) are often called “gypsies” by others. Many people who live in the United States know little or nothing about the Roma. In Europe, and especially in Eastern Europe, it is a different story.

Over the years, the Roma have been enslaved, shut out, shunned, and even shot. Their women have been involuntarily sterilized and their children forcibly removed from them “for the children’s own good.” Up to two and a half million of them were exterminated during Hitler’s reign of terror. People in other ethnic groups have seen the Roma as thieves, beggars, and fortune tellers.

The Roma are the single largest minority group in Europe. They deserve our attention.

This study will introduce us to the Roma, with an emphasis on Eastern Europe. The first chapter will explore their history up to and including the twentieth century. Succeeding chapters will delve into the ways they are treated in contemporary European culture, introduce their lifestyle and spirituality, and investigate ways the church and other organizations are working alongside them. It will be an eye-opening journey that will, hopefully, offer a greater understanding of the Roma and opportunities for response and advocacy.
(Adapted from Prologue of the mission study text written by Larry Beman)


Serbia: Roma struggle

by Paul Jefferey, UMC Photojournalist


Vita Stankovic lives with his wife Arbanac Sofija and their daughters Rada, 5, and Caka, 3, in a homemade ramshackle dwelling. It’s in the middle of a vacant lot but within sight of the new high-rise buildings that mark the post-war renaissance of Belgrade, Serbia. Stankovic and his family are Roma, also known as Gypsies, and live at the edge of a settlement of other Roma families. He earns his living by recycling, working with a friend who has a bicycle-powered cart. They wander the city collecting cardboard, which they can then sell for three dinars per kilo–about five cents. Serbian Orthodox Christians, they received in February a letter informing them that they are about to be evicted. They know the drill. They moved here after being evicted from another site in 2009. Here’s Stankovic and his family outside their home. He’s holding the eviction letter. Read More........

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