Waiting to Die
In places like Hungary death for the Roma people is part of life in much the same way as breathing is. We know that someday we too will die and yet we do not expect it to be before we can take our next breath. For Roma, it may very well be.
Living under the threat of violence makes one question just how long they have left. Will the next attack be their last? Will the man who cuts you off in traffic pull a pistol and fire? Or maybe it will be when you go to bed? Will you wake up?
This sort of life breaks people's hearts, minds, even sometimes their souls. They wait for death to come or to pass them by. Not knowing if it will be them that goes next, they wait.
Despite the new attacks on Roma, this way of life is not new to the Romani. They are and have for centuries lived under the persistent threat of death and discrimination. The most horrific attack on the Roma came under Hitler during his Porrajmos (devouring) of the Romani people. This was the Roma Holocaust.
The death of millions came and went without notice amongst far to many in our Western world. We decided to accept the fact that the Nazis had killed the Jews over time but we forgot the others. Like silent invisible children they have seemingly slipped into the darkness of mankind's memory. And for far too long that has been just where we have kept them.
Out of sight, out of mind.
The near destruction of a culture brought about the unity of a people however. In the years that followed the Nazis' fall and the rise of Soviet dominance, the Romani united. Under the flag of the oppressed, the Rom was finally one. Their flag was adopted years later and their anthem was finally recorded. "Gelem, Gelem"... "We will go on".
I will never know just why, or for what reason, but Thanksgiving has always reminded me of those who have seemingly nothing to be thankful for. It has always amazed me how much the human spirit can take without finally collapsing. And even in the darkest hours of our history there seems to be those few glimmering lights of hope. Acting like beacons they guide us back to sanity if not for just a moment.
After your turkey is eaten and your family has left, do me this favor. Pray for those Roma still suffering at the hands of our European brothers. May God comfort them as this new wave of racist violence sweeps over them. And if God willing, may it truely Never Again reach the depths of those dark nights during Hitler's Porrajmos.
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