7th Jun, 2019
- Recently during his visit to Romania, Pope Francis apologised to the Roma people on behalf of the Catholic Church.
- He asked forgiveness for "all those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you".
Who are Roma people?
- They are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group which have come to Europe about 1,500 years ago from northern Indian subcontinent, from the Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab regions of modern-day India.
- Most of them live in southern and central Europe. The EU lists them as the largest ethnic minority in Europe.
- Some of them have emigrated to the US and Brazil in the 19th century. There are an estimated one million Roma in the United States and 800,000 in Brazil.
Discriminations faced by them
- One of the most enduring persecutions against the Romani people was their enslavement. Slavery was widely practiced in medieval Europe, including the territory of present-day Romania from before the founding of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia in the 13th–14th century. Legislation decreed that all the Romani living in these states, as well as any others who immigrated there, were classified as slaves.
- The persecution of the Romanies reached a peak during World War II in the Porajmos, the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. In 1935, the Nuremberg laws stripped the Romani people living in Nazi Germany of their citizenship, after which they were subjected to violence, imprisonment in concentration camps and later genocide in extermination camps.
- They were often killed on sight. The total number of victims has been estimated at between 220,000 and 1,500,000; even the lower figure would make the Porajmos one of the largest mass killings in history.
- In Czechoslovakia, they were labelled a "socially degraded stratum," and Romani women were sterilized as part of a state policy to reduce their population. This policy was implemented with large financial incentives, threats of denying future welfare payments, with misinformation, or after administering drugs.
- The Roma complain of housing and employment discrimination throughout Europe. They are associated with poverty, and are accused of high rates of crime and behaviours that are perceived by the rest of the population as being antisocial or inappropriate.
Global efforts for their upliftment
- World Romani Congress: It is a series of forum for discussion of issues relating to Roma people around the world with chief goals - standardization of the Romany language, improvements in civil rights and education, preservation of the Roma culture, reparations from World War II, and international recognition of the Roma as a national minority of Indian origin.
- European Roma Rights Centre: It is a Roma-led, international public interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Romani.
- Gypsy Lore Society: It was founded in Great Britain in 1888 with goal of promotion of the study of Roma, Gypsies and Travelers. It is currently headquartered in US.
- International Romani Union: It is an organization active for the rights of the Romani people. Its seat is in Prague.
- Decade of Roma Inclusion: It was an initiative of 12 European countries to improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of the Romani people across the region. The initiative was launched in 2005, with the project running from 2005 to 2015, and was the first multinational project in Europe to actively enhance the lives of Roma.
- International Romani Day (8 April): It is a day to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of the issues facing Romani pe