Catholic clergy: Roma in Šluknov not to blame for their poverty
Representatives of the Catholic Church working in villages in the Šluknov foothills do not share the ethnic tensions that have arisen there recently. They get along with their Romani parishioners well overall.
Father Josef Kujan of the Salesian order based in Jiříkov, near Rumburk, told the Catholic Weekly (Katolický týdeník): "The religious instruction I offer is attended by no one but Roma. At first there were 20 signed up, now there are 40... Romani children are docile, you can work with them. It's the whites who have the problem. For example, some mothers are bothered by their children attending the same hobby group as Romani children."
According to Father Pavel Procházka of Šluknov, the main culprit to blame for the current unrest in the district is the poor social situation of the Romani families there: "There is enormous unemployment and Romani people must pay high rent. A couple of days after paying their bills, they don't even have enough to eat properly. The social aspect of the situation is desperate, but the Romani people themselves are not to blame."
Procházka says the crimes Romani people commit are an outgrowth of their desperation, and the future does not look rosy. "It will probably escalate and if it is not addressed, it will end up like [the recent unrest] in England," he predicts. For his part, he is doing his best to be intensively in contact with Romani residents.
"We work with about 25 families here, perhaps 100 people total out of an overall population of 1 500 Roma. I have 10 Romani acolytes," Procházka says, adding that a regional charity has recently been opened to serve the Roma in Šluknov. "The Romani issue is constantly spoken of, but those who are specifically supporting us in our effort to address this problem are primarily the Germans. We have never received any support from the Czech state."
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