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Gypsies, treated as outcasts, look for hope
Trent Parker, Baptist Press
January 12, 2011
6 MIN READ TIME

Gypsies, treated as outcasts, look for hope

Gypsies, treated as outcasts, look for hope
Trent Parker, Baptist Press
January 12, 2011

BUCHAREST, Romania — Florin

smiles deferentially as the Romanian police officer unleashes a tirade of

curses at him in front of the Bucharest airport.

A Roma woman who has just arrived at the airport in Bucharest, Romania, receives a CD containing Christian music and the gospel message from a Roma believer. France recently deported the young mother and her family, along with thousands of other Roma, in attempt to rid the country of Gypsies. Several Christians were on hand at the airport to offer transportation and help the new arrivals connect with family members.

“You are the reason for Romania’s bad name!” the policeman yells. “You Gypsies

go to France and steal, murder and prostitute yourselves. Now you are our

problem again. You are a disgrace!”

Since the beginning of 2010, France has deported more than 8,000 Roma to

Romania in an attempt to dismantle Roma camps and sweep Gypsies out of the

country. Florin and his family were among the last wave of Gypsies to be

expelled in October. Many Roma had gone to France in search of work, but French

authorities now cite rising crime rates and financial burden as reasons for

ousting them.

The French government provided Florin, who was working as a brick mason, and

other Roma with 300 euros and a flight back to Romania. While they were waiting

to be deported, the Gypsies were directed to holding camps. Those who did not

comply were arrested.

Florin, 21, does not respond to the policeman as he looks for his mother and

brother among the colorful river of Roma flowing from the airport terminal.

Just as Florin and his people were unwelcome in France, the sentiment in

Romania will not be much better.

The Roma Gypsies are a transient people, though not always by choice.

“Every opportunity is closed for you when you are a Gypsy,” Florin said.

“Gypsy” is a term commonly used for the Roma people. Europeans, who thought

they came from Egypt because of their dark skin, first called them Gypsies. The

Roma people actually migrated to Europe from India hundreds of years ago. Many

Europeans still view the Roma with suspicion because they stick to their own

cultural practices and beliefs.

Cornel Tuns, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, is familiar with

the constant challenges facing the Roma people. A Romanian-American, Tuns was

14 when his family moved to Los Angeles from Bucharest in the 1980s to escape

communism. He said the Romas’ hardships have led to ministry opportunities.

“The biggest challenge in working with the Roma, as it is with any group, is

dealing with sin,” said Tuns, who served in Romania as a short-term missionary

in 2005 and then returned in early 2010 as an apprentice missionary with his

wife Erica.

Roma Gypsies are a transient people, though not always by choice. Since the beginning of 2010, multitudes of Roma have arrived at Romania’s Baneasa International Airport in Bucharest carrying all their worldly possessions.

Tuns joined several Roma believers at the Bucharest airport to meet the throng

of expelled Gypsies, offering rides and helping them connect with family members.

Knowing that music is an important part of Roma culture, the missionary also

handed out CDs containing Christian music and the gospel message.

Tuns’ efforts received a mixed response. While some of the Roma were thankful

for the help, others were suspicious of ulterior motives.

“Many Gypsies are skeptical about getting anything for free,” said Tuns, a

native of Ames, Iowa.

IMB missionaries have started two significant ministries with the Roma. From

Everywhere To Everywhere (FETE) trains Roma believers to go across Europe and

share the gospel with other Roma. Far Away Romany Missions (FARM) is a summer

program to provide biblical and evangelism training to the Roma. Florin is a

believer who served with FARM in previous summers.

The Roma are the largest minority group in Europe with an estimated 6 million

spread across the continent. Often the targets of prejudice and suspicion,

their involvement with theft, prostitution and drug use do little to alleviate

stereotypes.

“The sin issues the Roma struggle with are often manifested very obviously and

outwardly,” Tuns said. “Because of this, their appreciation for forgiveness of

sins is sincere and heartfelt.”

Despite the Roma people’s wariness, Tuns and other IMB missionaries across

Europe are seeing a response to the gospel. Rugul Aprins (Burning Bush) is a

rapidly growing Roma church with 3,000 members located in a Romanian town with

a population of 7,000.

Tuns was surprised to see Florin among the Roma arriving at the Bucharest

airport. He knew Florin from working with him at FARM and offered to give

Florin and his family a ride to the train station. As they drove, Florin told

Tuns the problems the Roma had faced in France and the bleakness of their

return.

“Not all of us were (in France) committing crimes,” Florin said. “We needed

work and there was none for us here in Romania.”

While many Roma are originally from Romania, they no longer see it as their

home and, now, must once again find a way to make a living in the face of

discrimination and hatred.

Florin remains hopeful for his people, despite their circumstances.

“God created us to be this way,” he said. “We were made by Him and He knows

why.”

Tuns is asking other Christians to join the task of reaching the Roma with the

love of Christ.

“Southern Baptists can be involved through praying for (the Roma) and through

taking initiative and concrete steps to be part of God’s answer to those

prayers,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parker writes for the International Mission Board. For

more information on how you and your church can pray for the Roma people, go to

www.imbeurope.org. Missionaries like Cornel Tuns are supported in part through

the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, which

supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,000 Southern

Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. This year’s offering

goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to

imb.org/offering.)

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