Communication by the Minority Ombudsman on the International Roma Day

On April 8, we celebrate the values of Roma culture worldwide. However, this year – just as last year, at the time of the outbreak of the pandemic –, in addition to emphasizing the key importance of Roma culture, it is worth taking this opportunity to highlight the need for social solidarity. In particular, all of us should face the fact that in these difficult times it is particularly important to pay attention to each other and to provide effective practical support to vulnerable social groups, including Roma communities.

Exactly fifty years ago, this day  in 1971, the first World Roma Congress was held in London, a major step both in the shaping and forming of Roma identity on international level and the universal recognition of Roma culture. In honor of this, the UN declared April 8 as World Day of Roma Culture in 1991. 

The International Roma Day is a celebration of the culture and identity of the Hungarian Roma community as well. In recent decades, a new generation of Roma intellectuals has emerged, who now, even during the pandemic, help Hungary's development as intellectuals or professionals of many fields: artists, clergymen, teachers, or professional member of a law enforcement agencies. Indeed, some of them are fighting in the most challenging battleground of today as health workers to tackle the epidemic, saving lives. With their work and perseverance, in addition to their own well-being, they also create a chance to determine the fate of their children freely and on a value-based ground.
 
The coronavirus pandemic and the extraordinary measures ordered to combat it have certainly made many people rethink and reconsider the way they see the world, their value judgments or even their previous prejudices. I truly hope that now, as the vaccination program progresses, and the lifting of restrictive measures is finally ahead of us, returning to our former “normal” life and continuing our way of life as usual will not mean a return to our past mistakes. The many encouraging manifestations of social solidarity experienced during the epidemic, the selfless activities of our exemplary “everyday heroes” – both Roma and non-Roma – can serve as a model for our future efforts to give hope and actively help those who do not yet see the way of breaking out of their disadvantaged situation.
 
                                                                                                         Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay
                                                                                                  Minority Ombudsman, Professor