Thursday, August 27, 2009

Czech bishops do not know whether Pope will talk about Romanies

The Czech Bishops' Conference' Ales Pistora told CTK today he does not know whether the Pope will mention the Romany issue during his visit to the Czech Republic, in reaction to a call by Jews and Hindus in the United States on Benedict XVI that he speak about Romanies.

"It is not known beforehand what theme Pope Benedict XVI will choose for his message to the Czech public," Pistora, the bishops conference spokesman, said.

Benedict XVI will visit the Czech Republic on September 26-28.

Representatives of Jews and Hindus in the United States claim Romanies in the Czech Republic live in an atmosphere similar to apartheid, The Jerusalem Post writes today.

Hindu representative Rajan Zed and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich claim in their joint statement that Romanies in the Czech Republic face violent attacks, stereotypes, racism, prejudices, a growing gap between them and the other Czechs, beatings, bad quality housing, systemic unemployment, persecution, social exclusion and segregation at school.

Zed and Freirich claim that Romanies are denied service in restaurants, shops and in discos, the state refuses to protect them against oppression and they undergo forced sterilisation.

Pistora reminded that Czech bishop Vaclav Maly said previously he is concerned about the growing aggressive manifestations of certain political parties and groupings aimed against minorities in the Czech Republic, mainly against Romanies of late.

Maly was reacting to an arson attack against a Romany family in Vitkov, north Moravia, in April, in which three people suffered burns.

The worst hit was a two-year-old girl who suffered burns to 80 percent of the surface of her body. She was recently awoken from induced sleep, but her condition is still serious.

"I express solidarity with all who will stand up to this dangerous trend using peaceful and legal means and who will speak up for the afflicted. The church is not indifferent and it stands in this effort on the side of all people of goodwill," Maly said.

Zed and Freirich wrote that for believers it is a sinful and morally unjustifiable if they do not pay attention to how Romanies are maltreated.

They said if the Pope raised the maltreatment of Romanies during his Czech visit, this would have a great effect.

Romanies, most of whom come from India, started to migrate to Europe around the 11th century.

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