Friday, September 02, 2016

Strangers in Our Midst

Any time I come across a news item about the Roma, I am immediately reminded of my old high school friend, Srikumar.  I am always impressed with how he has dedicated himself to the cause of bringing together the Roma and the Czechs.  Yes, the Czechs, because that is where Kumar lives.  His life journey is a fascinating turn of events, as I noted here.  (A few months after I blogged that, Kumar's father--who died a few months ago--wrote to me appreciating that post.)

Unfortunately, when the Roma are in the news, it is often because they are being driven out of somewhere.  This time, it is in Ukraine:
Several dozen people in a Roma community in southern Ukraine were forced to flee their homes after a mob tore through their neighborhood over the weekend, breaking windows, tearing down fences and even setting a house on fire while the heavily outnumbered police stood by and watched.
What happened?  What was the cause?  A false claim that a 9-year old girl (not Roma) was raped and killed by a Roma male.  That this claim was untrue did not matter to the mob.  But, even if the rapist/killer was Roma, why the wholesale attack on the rest of them, right?
After the girl’s death, hundreds of residents demanded that the Roma be expelled, and on Sunday they gained the backing of the district council. Even Mikheil Saakashvili, the governor of the region of Odessa, which includes Loshchynivka, and a former president of Georgia, offered tacit support in a video message posted on Facebook, denouncing the village’s “antisocial elements.”
Even Saakashvili.  How awful. The guy should know better than this!


The US Holocaust Memorial Museum condemns the unfortunate development:
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum strongly condemns these outrageous acts. It urges the government of Ukraine and local authorities to provide protections for the Roma and other threatened minorities, and to develop educational and community programs that will help build respect for cultural diversity.
“Between 1933 and 1945, Roma and Sinti suffered greatly as victims of the Nazis and their allies.  Ultimately, between 220,000 and 500,000 died in the genocide of the Roma and Sinti peoples,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield.  “Sadly, the recent pogrom in Loshchynivka, Ukraine, is but one of many acts of violence and forced evictions visited upon the Roma in Europe since 1945.” 
Maybe my old friend will soon have something about this on his Facebook page.

All over the world, there seems to be a sudden uptick in xenophobia.  This major party presidential candidate is not helping here, but is making things worse. I suppose simply getting along is not that easy for us humans!


Ramesh said...

I don't know enough about the Roma to comment, but want to touch on two issues triggered by what I read in your post.

How come Saakashvili landed up in Ukraine ? He was after all President of Georgia. Did he then leave Georgia ? He emigrated to Ukraine and can now be a governor of one of Ukraine's regions ? That is very odd ! I don't think there is anybody else in the world who can claim to be an office holder in two different countries !!

As for all the rumour mongering and hare speeches, this is the real danger of what your Presidential candidate is doing. In such a charged atmosphere caused by irresponsible rhetoric, all it takes is one rumour to ignite the fire. How is what he is doing any different from shouting Fire in a crowded theatre ? Public figures must be held very responsible for the words they utter - free speech does not equate to creating mayhem.

Sriram Khé said...

Crazy, right? I mean, Ukraine and Georgia are not even neighboring, contiguous, countries ... not like India and Bangladesh, for instance. I tell ya, the world is nuts! ;)

Yes, the American presidency is a phenomenally influential position across the global stage, which means that the candidate's hate mongering is also influential across the world. Oh well ... this is what the GOP has created and is supporting!

Anne in Salem said...

Why are people so threatened by someone who is different? Most cultures are fascinating, and all have something to teach others. Why is it so hard to appreciate that? I just don't understand.

I wonder if the mob also destroyed the villages of all the other men who allegedly committed other rapes and other heinous crimes. Such mentality is barbaric and incomprehensible. Does the mob really believe that running the Romas out of the area will eliminate all crime and protect all the people?

Sriram Khé said...

Let me be Captain Goodhope ;)
if at all, now we humans are far less threatened by the "other" than we have ever been in our history. We have killed, maimed, tortured, raped, and more all because of the difference.

We have a long way to go though, for which people need the right kind of leaders who will help people understand this, as opposed to the new crop of demonic leaders who want to make the "others" as problems. Oh well ...

Most read this past month