There I sit, long-time Gypsy activist, present at the latest episode of an 11 year old struggle to evict Roma Christians from their church in Broward county, the first all Gypsy church I had ever come across. Nor had I come across a Gypsy leader, this one a Roma pastor, who remained in place defending the rights of his people. In Europe Gypsies have been persecuted for the 600 years they have lived in Western culture, but, this is America, I proudly thought.
The half-circle of county commissioners, deciders of the fate of this very special church, sit on the elevated stage ahead of us and are still dealing with main county business - money money money - thrown back and forth like ping pong balls.
I happen to also be a survivor of and witness to Nazi persecutions, baggage that remains grafted to my brain. So now I am eyeing those in whose hands lies the fate of my religious friends. I have no reason to trust bureaucrats, for the Nazis within all the chaos and tragedies they caused remained superb bureaucrats, everything was done by the book, their book. So now I am eying this set of bureaucrats in front of me with caution. To my relief I note that they are of mixed ethnicity and gender. Seven, I remember, women, two men. White, Jewish, Black. I have 3 minutes to convince them of the symbolic value of this missionary church, its importance reaching way beyond Broward County, for once again, Gypsies, now known as Roma, are being openly persecuted all across Europe. My life has come full circle. So called to the podium, I speak of the renewed, “silent persecution” of Europe’s now largest, most vulnerable minority. How, this pastor is trying to recruit Roma missionaries to go teach Roma abroad to help themselves, the uniqueness of this church. That this is precisely what America stands for, a symbol of what raises us, Americans, morally above all other countries I know and have lived in.
Deliberations resume. The black man, new member on the board, starts speaking on the Gypsies’ behalf, but - backs away. Heigh, I think, he’s new on the block. The one white man, vice-mayor off (I believe) Broward county speaks up, hero of my soul, about the purpose behind the eviction now, there are no permits issued, the Roma are paying their bills, they are a positive presence in an area of rehab centers, looking industrial. So
The women speak up, misspeak. One young black lady says – falsely so – the Gypsies haven’t been paying their bills, and that she got this from channel 7. Which rightfully infuriates the Gypsy pastor, who has paid his bills, always, he has gone by the book, always. He is not allowed to speak, at first, because he’s not on the list. But then he talks anyway, he has proof of not being delinquent in payments or anything else, ever reminding them
This is a CHURCH!
Question is, I thought, would it have happened to any other church, temple, religious institution involving anybody else but GYPSIES, now called Roma?
Once again, presiding women take center stage: They want to get it over with, be done with it, enough already. Moneymoneymoney, that has changed hands, etc. etc. etc. Once again, flashbacks to my past, where you had a better chance arguing for your life with a fish in the ocean than with a German bureaucrat. So here too, I was horrified at the heartless reaction of these women of different ethnic backgrounds who had been given the power to make decisions of this importance.