Hungarian Church Ministries Among Roma
Budapest's Protestant Institute of Missions sponsored a mission study trip focusing on Hungary's Roma minority in May 2004. The purpose was to become better acquainted with Roma culture, religion, and social conditions, and to recognize what God is doing among them today. The group visited different churches, institutes, and mission centers supported by Reformed, Greek-Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical Pentecostal churches in cities and villages throughout Hungary. Students met Roma living in modern surroundings and other uneducated Roma living in shanties in isolated districts and settlements. The latter reminded participants of the Roma's vagabond life of the past. At each stop the group met Roma Christians who were unfailingly generous and deeply devoted to being God's instrument among their people.
It was a memorable and vivid experience for the group to see an initiative undertaken by Father Gabor Gersei, a Greek Catholic priest who established a Roma church and cultural center in the village of Hodász. Local children refer to the center as their "second home." The building complex also includes a home for the elderly and the disabled. The goal is to bring Roma and ethnic Hungarians together in a meaningful way. In addition, the center offers training for Roma women who want to find employment. This thriving community is an attractive example of the long-term Christian commitment of a priest and his devoted Greek Catholic Gypsy parishioners.
We also were deeply impressed by the work of Father Jozsef Lankó, a Roman Catholic priest in Alsózentmárton, an entirely Roma village close to the Hungarian-Croatian border. The priest and the Roma villagers have found creative ways to overcome serious economic difficulties and to shed God's light on harsh realities. We much admired the creative steps toward economic self sufficiency undertaken by the local Roma and supported by Father Jozsef. He also established a kindergarten and an after-school program for Roma children where one could truly sense the compassion and love of God. This proved to be an attractive model of Christian mission to the Roma that involved care for both spiritual and economic needs.
We also visited a secondary school complex in Pécs and its student dormitory in Mánfa, where Hungarian Gypsies and non-Gypsies live and work together. Roma students, with encouragement from parents and teachers, are able to complete their studies, pass the school-leaving examination, and by this means, overcome social and economical disadvantages. The school's goal is to integrate these young people into Hungarian society and to support them so they can become valuable members of their community.
As a result of this mission study trip among the Roma, participants understand more fully what an enormous challenge it is to translate beliefs into righteous actions, including creative approaches to Christian social care. Ethnic Hungarians and Hungarian Gypsies have the same task: to accept the shared responsibility to find new, productive ways to live in peace and love and to learn how to accept one another. Is this not our obligation as Christians to help realize God's Kingdom?
Mónika Cziszér is a master of theology student at the Protestant Institute for Mission Studies, Budapest, Hungary.
Mónika Cziszér, "Hungarian Church Ministries Among Roma," East-West Church & Ministry Report 13 (Spring 2005), 16.
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© 2005 East-West Church and Ministry Report