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Persecution of Roma is countered with a mission of mercy
December 1st, 2008
by Boyd Hatchel
Masked protesters marched on Romany residents in Litvinov, Czech Republic Masked protesters marched on Romany residents in Litvinov, Czech Republic
In Litvinov, Czech Republic, no one wants to live or even visit Janov, a run-down, neglected ghetto where most of the city’s Roma population live. In October, more than 300 extremists held an unauthorized anti-Roma rally in downtown Litvinov.
At the conclusion of the rally, the emotional mob marched and rode on horseback to the Janov neighborhood, and then attacked local Roma with sticks and stones. Police stopped the raid, but not before three men in uniform were injured.
Discrimination against Roma is a widespread problem in Eastern Europe where most of these nomadic, nation-less people reside. They are regularly treated with disdain by nationals and often suffer persecution. In this latest clash, with words that ring with the fanaticism of the Nazis, the mantra was to “solve the Roma problem.”
This month International Mission Board (IMB) personnel visited the Janov neighborhood to distribute tracts, brochures and evangelistic CDs. They listened to the concerns and fears of residents and prayed with family members.
“They came in here to our homes and treated us like dogs,” said Petra, a 40-year-old mother. “We have lived here all our lives. What did they want us to do? What have we done to them?”
When asked about community response to this recent attack, Jan, another Romany victim, voiced the sentiment of his people.
“No one knows we’re here, except those (extremists),” he commented. “The government wants us to leave, but we have no place to go.”
The IMB Romany team wants people like Petra and Jan to know they are not forgotten. The team’s ministry focuses on reaching Roma for Christ in several countries of Central Europe, including the Czech Republic. Through Bible studies, park outreaches, block parties and sports ministries, the Romany team is finding a way to communicate to this unwanted people group that they are loved and wanted by God.
Southern Baptists have played significant roles in reaching Roma. Intercession gives missionaries the courage to go into unknown, possibly dangerous neighborhoods; financial gifts and resources provide the means for believers to travel to pockets of lostness like Janov; and correspondence and support provide direction and energy for future ministry. Notably, Roma are one of the most responsive people groups in Eastern Europe to the message of Christ.
Missionaries extend their gratitude to Southern Baptists in America for their partnership, prayers, gifts and generosity to reach those who feel forgotten.
To find out more about ministry among the Romany people, visit the team’s Web site.