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International Roma Day: Message from Christian Churches in Europe, “may they be accepted as full European citizens”

The hope that Roma people in Europe may “increasingly feel accepted as full European citizens, with rights and duties, and contribute to a more just future in which we all share”: the European Churches expressed it in a joint message signed by the Conference of European Churches, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe and the Caritas in Veritate Commission of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences. The message was published on the eve of International Roma Day that will be celebrated tomorrow with events held at the European Parliament in Brussels and across Europe to raise public awareness of their struggle for justice and recognition. Today, 10 to 12 million Roma live throughout Europe. And “centuries of antiziganism have created unacceptable conditions for Roma people”, the Churches wrote in their message: “Historically, they have often been marginalized and victims of violence, enslavement, and even genocide. Today, they suffer from ongoing social exclusion and struggle for access to education, housing, employment, social services, and healthcare. They are even sometimes denied basic civil rights, like birth certificates and the accompanying legal entitlements. Despite this oppression, they have survived and protected their distinctive ways of life, language, and traditions”. The Churches in Europe are doing a lot in many areas “to change perceptions of Roma, foster worthwhile dialogue, and respect the diverse histories and identities while recognising Roma people as fellow citizens of European countries”. Unfortunately, however, the Roma “remain on the fringes of our awareness and our societies”. Hence a strong appeal from the Churches: “Together we must repent the sins of discrimination and persecution, and recommit ourselves to the difficult work of reconciliation”.

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