EU Bishops: Roma Should Have Equal Rights

Call for Better Understanding of What Integration of the Gypsy Community Means

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A group of European bishops has called for the Roma to have the same rights as every other citizen in Europe.

At the end of a meeting in Athens 5-7 May, the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Conference of European Churches said members of the gypsy community «are citizens of European countries with rights and duties”.

Therefore, they added, «freedom of movement and the choice to settle in different parts, taking up employment where it is available, are rights of all EU citizens which have to be respected for Roma minorities, too”.

The participants, meeting on the theme “Improving the Situation of Roma People in Europe: Challenges and open questions”, called for a better understanding of what integration of Roma in our societies means, saying it “should not be mistaken as assimilation”.

At the same time, they stressed in a communique the important role of churches in improving the situation of Roma in many parts of Europe. «Local parishes provide the space for intercultural encounters between the different communities, fostering acceptance and trust,» they said. «Churches could promote a culture of education and learning among marginalized communities”.

«Following Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all,» the members said they reaffirmed their commitment and that they will» consider effective follow-up measures of churches to improve the situation of Roma people in Europe.»

The meeting took place on the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and under the auspices of the Greek Presidency of the European Union.

During the meeting, the deputy foreign minister of Greece Mr Kyriakos Gerontopoulos greeted the conference and emphasised the importance of “social integration of Roma while preserving the Roma cultural traditions and lifestyle”.

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