"WHY haven't our bishops apologized for crimes against the Roma? Why do we build [segregated] Roma churches? Why don't we hear the church react to racism?" Daniela Šilanová, editor of the Roma newspaper Romano Nevo L'il posed these questions and provoked a heated discussion at the Conference of Roma culture in Šamorin in late October.
Present at the conference were several representatives of the church who spoke about the deep faith many Roma have in God. Daniela Šilanová's views ignited a discussion of the hypocrisy of many Christians as well as the absence of declarations against racism by the church.
"Historians should speak about this," said priest Jozef Červen. "If there were mistakes made by the church, then it should certainly apologize. The Holy Father apologized as the highest authority of the church. And if it becomes apparent that there are people who have been hurt, then most certainly that apology will come."
Several Roma participants recalled experiences of intolerance when visiting churches, even though they were well dressed, clean, and had a good standard of living.
Sister Athanasia, a Roma, suggested that, when blame for racism is laid, Christians need to be separated from the church. "People used to pull away from me too," she said when she recalled her early visits to church. "But this is not the church. These are people who are unaware."
Alexander Mušinka asked for a more active role by the church in working with the Roma. "I can't say that the church is anti-Roma, but there is a lack of motivation from above that would [otherwise] motivate priests to really take advantage of the 'straight highway' they have to the Roma settlements," he said. "There are active individuals, but I don't see signals from the church that would morally push people to enter these communities."
10. Nov 2003 at 0:00 | : Andrea Chalupa