CEC-CCEE message on the occasion of International Roma Day

St. Gallen/Geneva, Switzerland, 7 April 2016

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Today some 10 to 12 million Roma live throughout Europe, and are among the most deprived and marginalised people of our continent. They face daily discrimination and are often denied access to basic schooling, housing, and healthcare.

A long history of antiziganism have led to these deplorable conditions. For centuries, Roma were enslaved, tortured, murdered, and their families broken apart. They suffered legal persecution, were segregated from society and denied basic civil rights. Despite all this Roma minorities have survived and preserved their culture. In working to change perceptions, we are aware that everyone—Roma and non-Roma alike—will have to engage in meaningful dialogue, which will help overcome fears and work for integration respectful of Roma identity.

On the occasion of International Roma Day, 8 April, the general secretaries of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) call for renewed efforts for healing and reconciliation.

"We encourage our Christian communities in Europe to continue to support Roma wellbeing and actively work to end hate speech and social exclusion.

We must journey together. We appeal to all to welcome the marginalised and uphold their human dignity as a gift from God. Roma people, with their unique traditions, faith, and culture are also called to bring their values to European society as responsible citizens.

The Roma have a centuries-old sense of shared European identity and free movement across political, cultural, and religious boundaries. They are one of the indigenous European nations, however, without an equal standing in terms of respect or honour among them. More than 600 years after their migration to Europe, their full reception remains incomplete. The fact that they live under circumstances of continued discrimination and even persecution is a disgrace to all European countries. We need to acknowledge their situation, through the centuries, in the Holocaust and presently, and our responsibility for it.

The principal way out of the present difficult situation of the Roma people and their families is learning, work, and faith. Their inclusion is a necessary indication of our commitment for a shared European identity and the free movement of people, commerce, and ideas in the European realm".

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