Synodal Council of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren calls on ombudsman to apologize for anti-Romani remarks
The Synodal Council of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren has published a declaration calling on ombudsman Stanislav Křeček to apologize for his anti-Romani remarks. Following a similar challenge posed to the ombudsman by NGOs last month, this is yet another civil society organization expressing disagreement with Křeček's behavior in the office of the Public Defender of Rights.
Instead of apologizing, the ombudsman has attacked the ROMEA organization. The Synodal Council's statement reads: "We are concerned by the remarks of the Public Defender of Rights, JUDr. Stanislav Křeček, about minorities and about our fellow citizens who are disadvantaged and discriminated against."
"We call on Mr Křeček to apologize for his remarks supporting negative stereotypes about the Romani minority and to refrain from such remarks in future. The Public Defender of Rights should not cast doubt on his mission, prescribed by law, to 'aid all without distinction' by making such statements," the declaration of the religious organization says.
Organizations supporting Romani people, human rights, and people in adversity called on Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and members of the lower house in mid-February to distance themselves from the remarks made by the ombudsman about Romani people. In their view, the Public Defender of Rights, through his remarks, has strengthened prejudices against Romani people, stirred up hatred, and disgraced his office.
The representatives of 16 non-governmental, nonprofit organizations, four members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs and one member of the Czech Government Council for National Minorities signed the open letter. In January, on the website of his office, in his comments on the Government's draft Roma Strategy, Křeček said Romani people experience problems accessing housing in the Czech Republic not because of discrimination, but because "they devastate the housing stock and transform a part of these municipalities into excluded localities."
Elsewhere on his blog Křeček has written, among other things, that: "The labor of black slaves in the past was a significant contribution to the creation of wealth in the USA, but under no circumstances can the same thing be said of the European Roma." The letter-writers from the NGO sector also referred to other statements that he has made about the education or employment of Romani people.
- "I don't want to allow Czech society to constantly be accused of discriminating against everybody everywhere and of being xenophobic. [...] During the 1960s, when racists [in the USA] prevented black children from accessing the schools, they penetrated cordons of police and faced brutal violence. In our country, on the other hand, we have to persuade Romani people to send their children to school. That is an essential difference, after all." (In the daily Deník, 24 April 2020)
- "The labor of black slaves in the past was a significant contribution to the creation of wealth in the USA, but under no circumstances can the same thing be said of the European Roma." (In the newspaper Právo/blog Aktuálně, 9 July 2020)
- "If you all are alleging that nobody wants to hire you, then why don't you employ yourselves? Why don't you all establish firms participating, for example, in improving housing in excluded localities? If they don't want to allocate you an apartment, why don't you build apartment buildings and units like thousands of other non-Romani members of housing cooperatives in our country?" (In the newspaper Právo/blog Aktuálně, 9 July 2020)
- "After all, for entrepreneurs who don't want a Romani person because he'll come to work on Monday but not on Wednesday, that's their experience. I'm not saying they are all like that, they're also doctors, they're college-educated, that's true. However, people have different experiences, after all, and we cannot reproach them for the experiences they have had during their lifetimes. Only children act without experience." (Rádio Svobodné univerzum ["Radio Free Universe"], 11 September 2020)
- "Some Romani people actually have problems finding housing, but not because they are discriminated against - it's because a significant proportion of them devastate housing stock." (Written comments submitted by the ombudsman, 11 January 2021)
Those signing the open letter said that: "The ombudsman Stanislav Křeček is publicly commenting on matters that affect the lives of Romani men and women in a way that violates their human dignity, strengthens anti-Romani prejudices, and stirs up hatred in society." The Czech Prime Minister has not responded to the letter yet.
Křeček has since attacked one of the signatories of the letter, the ROMEA organization, for having criticized incoming Chief Public Health Officer Pavla Svrčinová for behaving in a racist way against Romani people. She shared a joke in October 2020 to her Facebook profile using a stereotypically Romani name that read as follows: "Fero Lakatoš robbed his own apartment today. He is following the quarantine rules and working from home. Be like Fero."
Svrčinová subsequently apologized for sharing the joke. The ombudsman then called the protests against the joke "hectoring" and said he saw nothing racist about what she had shared.
"Let's not allow ourselves to be 'hectored' by a group of activists who make a living by dividing society. There is no racism in this joke (in the sense of the definition of racism, which is being forgotten). If the person in the joke working from home had been named Josef Novák, would a nonprofit have protested against discrimination against Czechs?" he posted to Facebook on Friday, 5 March at 19:30 in response to a post by another Facebook user calling the Romea.cz news server "racist".
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