Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking for Some Good News?

Note:  The CBF Romany Ministry team is not directly connected with the European Roma Rights Centre. We do find good news encouraging. Perhaps you do, too?
Everyone has the right to be free from race discrimination. For Roma in Europe, though, that is more theory than reality. Most Roma in Europe experience discrimination each day. They are denied access to a decent education, refused the right to travel abroad, and many cannot even get equal access to drinking water.  Here are twelve ways we worked with Roma this year to make Europe a better place for all of us:
  1. For the first time in Europe an official Roma-only settlement was ruled discriminatory. This Italian court judgment reaffirms the long-held positions of many rights organisations that placing Roma in Roma-only camps, shelters or any other segregated housing fosters social exclusion and is contrary to the European Union laws.
  2. We helped a Roma community living in Uzhgorodo, Ukraine to legalise their homes.
  3. Sadly sometimes even EU funds are used for the segregation of Roma. Following our complaint to the European Commission, the regional authorities in Naples, Italy, stopped plans for a segregated housing project.
  4. Several Romanian Roma were detained and removed from Denmark. With the ERRC’s help, they have already established that their expulsion was unlawful. This year, we helped them reverse a decision refusing them legal aid to continue their case.
  5. Roma are often denied personal documents just for being Roma. 2015 was another successful year of our paralegal project in Ukraine, which has, in three years, secured 16 birth certificates, 24 internal passports and 3 external passports for Roma who were living without documents.
  6. We have to make sure that National Action Plans for Roma inclusion are really benefiting Roma. With our help, Roma civil society organisations in Ukraine are now actively engaged in advocacy with relevant authorities to improve and implement that country’s plan.
  7. When highlighting issues cornering Roma rights, the European Commission picked up our recommendations in its report on Albania, Turkey, Macedonia, and Serbia.
  8. The European Court of Human Rights condemned Hungary for discrimination resulting from the failure to investigate a racist attack against a Romani man. The applicant was the victim of a racist attack by a man who claimed to be a police officer and called him a “dirty gypsy”. We intervened in the case as a third party.
  9. Perpetrators of an anti-Roma pogrom were found guilty of hate crimes in Italy. We were a civil party in the criminal case.
  10. The Macedonian authorities racially profile their citizens who are trying to leave the country and stop Roma from leaving. According to a court judgment delivered this year, the Interior Ministry has to pay compensation to a Romani couple who were not allowed to cross the border to visit their family. The European Commission also mentioned racial profiling at the border in its 2015 progress report on Macedonia. The ERRC worked with a local NGO to help the plaintiffs.
  11. Based on complaints we filed with local NGOs, the Ombudsman condemned segregation in two schools in Albania; the Equality Commissioner also found discrimination in one of the cases (and is still considering the second).
  12. The Ombudsman in the Czech Republic found discrimination following our complaint about discrimination resulting from a refusal to enrol a Roma child in primary school.
“The ERRC is pursuing 158 legal cases in 17 countries. Institutions, ministries and schools must know that they can’t get away with discrimination.” - says Adam Weiss Legal Director of ERRC - “We are getting better every year at uncovering the ways they discriminate. In 2016 and beyond, we will be in court with new cases and securing new legal victories for the Roma rights movement.

Note:  This article has been slightly condensed from the original.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Signs of the Season

December 21, the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in central Iowa it is as dark and gloomy as the photograph on the left. Can you even tell what it is supposed to be? It's an image of Christmas. That's also why I've linked it with this blue sign. I happen to be in a hospital right now, waiting for test results on my 90+ year-old mother. It will not be our first Christmas season spent in part or in whole in a hospital. Perhaps you're familiar with that, too?
If so, this post is for you, and for everyone who is not having such a holly jolly Christmas. I know a lot of you--you are missing a loved one who was with you last year and left a hole in your heart this year.  You are half-way through chemo and facing an uncertain future. Your home was bombed, and your country is in chaos. None of this has happened to you, but you've been depressed so long you've forgotten what it even feels like to be happy.
Whatever the reason, you aren't alone. Even in the midst of the frenetic tinseled hype of an American holiday season, a couple of local churches paused to hold an observance for those among us facing a blue Christmas.They were inspired by the baby in this little beam of light. You know, the one who grew up to be a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.

 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. 

(Scripture references from Isaiah 53:3 and 53:4)