Roma gypsies: Germany yesterday, France today
France's expulsion of Roma Gypsies has been likened by a top EU official to that which took place under Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
French police in action
Controversy over France’s expulsion of the Roma overshadowed the itinerary at a recent European Union summit. The EU’s Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding branded the action was no different from deportations that took place during World War II.
Lee DeYoung with Words of Hope – a Christian radio broadcasting ministry – says: “The sentiment which motivates the recent expulsion, the recent actions taken against Roma people inside France, is not new.”
Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 when Germany was experiencing severe economic hardship. Hitler promised the Germans that he would bring them prosperity and power. Hitler had a vision of a Master Race of Aryans that would control Europe. He used powerful propaganda techniques to convince not only the German people, but countless others, that if they eliminated the people who stood in their way and the degenerates and racially inferior, they - "the great Germans" would prosper.
Jews and Gypsies: Executed for Their Race
Like the Jews, the Roma Gypsies were chosen for total annihilation just because of their race. Even though Jews are defined by religion, Hitler saw the Jewish people as a race that he believed needed to be completely annihilated.
The Roma Gypsies also were a nomadic people that were persecuted throughout history. Both groups were denied certain privileges in many European countries. The Nazis believed that both the Jews and Gypsies were racially inferior and degenerate and therefore worthless. Like the Jews, the Gypsies were also moved into special areas set up by the Nazis. Half a million Gypsies, almost the entire Eastern European Gypsy population, was wiped out during the Holocaust.
Germany yesterday; France today
Today France is now facing possible legal action over its controversial drive to deport ethnic Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria.
A report indicated that nearly 60 percent of French surveyed were in favour of ousting the Roma. In July, French president Nicolas Sarkozy launched the forced closure of 300 illegal migrant camps.
Since then, France kicked out nearly 8,000 Roma to Bulgaria and Romania. But DeYoung says there’s nowhere for them to go. “They’re one of the largest people groups that don’t have their own homeland and are seen as outsiders in the midst of majority populations around the world.”
By way of contrast another EU country and neighbour of France is seeking to integrate the Roma Gypsies living within its borders. Of the 10-12 million Roma living in Europe, Spain has the second biggest community, estimated at 970,000, or about 2% of the total population. And the country spends almost €36 million annually bringing them into the fold. In Spain, only 5% of gypsies live in makeshift camps, and about half of Roma are homeowners. Just about all Gypsies in Spain have access to health care, and while no recent figures exist, at least 75% are believed to have some sort of steady income.
Demographics and Identity
DeYoung believes the resentment in France can be traced back to population. France’s birthrate has been steadily declining, while that of the Roma has been on a steady rise. This issue boils down to identity. “Those who are in the countries – in the ethnic groups – where the birthrate is low, living side by side with people where the birthrate is high, there is the fear that they will eventually be minorities in their own country.”
In the midst of the row, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi commented: "Mr Berlusconi told Le Figaro newspaper that it 'would have been better if Madame Reding had dealt with the subject in private with French leaders before expressing herself publicly as she did".
He continued: "The problem of the Roma is not specifically French. It concerns every country in Europe."
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said He said it was vital that commissioners ‘choose their language carefully’ when interfering in the domestic affairs of member states.But he also warned France that it must not target illegal Roma immigrants on the basis of their ethnic origin.
As EU leaders exchanged heated words over the issue, Berlusconi said: "It is ..... necessary to put this subject on the agenda at the European Council so we can all discuss it together in order to find a common position."
A Christian position
Words of Hope has a heart for these people, with years of outreach through broadcasting in Eastern Europe in the Balkan Romani language. “It’s programming that tries to create that sense of common identity, of empathizing with people, even though they may be different. That’s one of the things that we’re trying to do as we broadcast the Gospel. It’s a goal to try to bring about the sense of not being all the same, but yet celebrating that common bond that unites us through Jesus Christ.”
As Words of Hope has built an audience, they’ve also seen people come to Christ and plant churches. As the EU grapples with the issues raised by the French/Roma debacle, the Gospel’s simplicity reveals a solution.
In an age where we see serious tensions arising and demarcation lines being drawn on the basis of religion and ethnicity, disciples of Christ need to hold fast to the mind of God and the teachings of the Word of God in terms of our responses.