No room for the Roma (part 3)
One family are staying here at the Methodist church, glad to be in the warm, with their own cooking facilities, and finally on proper beds. But the experience has left a lasting loss – the mother (who at age 34 looks more like 54), lost her pregnancy of 6 months just a few days ago; surely the stress and the cold must have been contributing factors. She is resilient and concerned for her eldest son who is with her, and for the four that remain in Romania with their grandparents. The Roma are economic migrants, searching for money that they can send home. Some have been able to find work, but the financial crisis hit them first and so the women continue to beg on the streets.
The culture clash between Italy and Romania is large, for example, the women appear to be far more pro-active than the men (in general, of course), the women dress distinctively, and the people marry many years younger than is the norm here. Then again, the family stays together if possible, and an extended rather than nuclear family unit seems normal – very similar to traditional Italian life.
The Churches here continue to persuade the State to provide a long-term solution for the Roma. Even if some of this group go home, or move on, others will come in their place. Their immigration is legal: as part of the European Union the Roma have the same rights as the British to live here, to search for work, to receive medical attention and to send their children to school. But many Italians refuse to realise this, feeling themselves to be the first in line for all pan-Europe and international immigration. I don’t know if, per head of population, their rate of immigration is higher than the UK, but for once, I’m proud to be British, as we seem to be turning the tide of racism and recognising the benefits of a diverse society.
To sound a note of hope, many Methodist/Waldensian churches here are growing as a result of immigration (much like London District Methodist Churches). One lady from one such church said that the results of church growth and diversity were wonderful to see and experience. It has not been easy, she said, and sometimes differences of culture still need to be understood and overcome, but the fullness of God’s Kingdom is worth it.
[Editors note: I hope you have enjoyed these guest posts and a glimpse of what goes on overseas. Tomorrow a post from myself about how the churches in the UK are responding to those claiming sanctuary in this country)