I can't communicate too well with my friend Dániel Kovács. He doesn't speak much English, and I only know three phrases in Hungarian. But last week we sat beside each other in a worship conference and enjoyed fellowship with the help of a translator.
Dániel is my brother in Christ. But many people in Europe look down on him because he is a Gypsy. He faces huge obstacles because Gypsies--also known as the Roma people--have the highest rates of unemployment, illiteracy and poverty in Eastern Europe, along with the lowest life expectancy rates.
Dániel and the people in his village of Uszka, in northeast Hungary, suffer from what is known as antiziganism, the hatred of Gypsies. It is racial profiling at its worst. It has plagued Europe since the Roma people arrived from India in their caravans 600 years ago. The highest Gypsy populations are in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain, but Gypsies are scattered all over Europe and the Middle East--and many have come to North America.
Wherever they go, they experience discrimination.
Antiziganism reached its peak during the 1940s, when German Nazis murdered between 250,000 and 500,000 Gypsies in concentration camps. Like the Jews, many Gypsies were starved or gassed; others were sterilized. Scientists also used Gypsies as human guinea pigs for diabolical experiments because they felt their slightly darker skin made them racially inferior.
The Gypsy genocide in Europe was called "the devouring." But even though Europeans eventually condemned what the Nazis did, antiziganist feelings have remained strong. Today, Gypsy children are still segregated in their own substandard schools, and Gypsy adults are denied work. Many Gypsies resort to crime in order to exist in this oppressed state, thus reinforcing the stereotype that they are all criminals.
Racism against Gypsies has been compared to what African-Americans suffered in the United States in the Jim Crow era or what blacks endured in the apartheid years in South Africa. Up until the 1960s in England, it was common to see signs in pubs that read "NO BLACKS, NO DOGS, NO GYPSIES."
A poll in England just 10 years ago showed that a third of British people still have racist feelings toward Gypsies. These feelings are even stronger in Eastern Europe, where Gypsies are viewed as a public health threat. Some people fear serious violence could erupt in Hungary because anti-Gypsy sentiment is being fueled by right-wing politicians.
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SOURCE: Charisma News
J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.