Statement by the Minority Ombudsman on the Occasion of the International Roma Day

On 8 April, the values of Roma culture are celebrated all over the world. This year, however, just like last year when the pandemic broke out, we should exceptionally use this opportunity, in addition to highlighting the special significance of Roma culture, for drawing attention to the necessity of social solidarity. We should primarily emphasise that taking care of each other, as well as providing efficient practical support to the vulnerable social groups, including the Roma communities, are especially important in these difficult times.

Exactly fifty years ago, in 1971, it was on this day that the first World Romani Congress was organised in London, the first major international step in the formation and shaping of Roma identity, and the universal recognition of Roma culture. In honour of this, 8 April was declared the International Roma Day by the United Nations Organisation in 1991.

The International Romani Day is also a celebration of the culture and recognition of the identity of the Hungarian Roma community. In recent decades, a new generation of Roma intellectuals has emerged, and their members have helped Hungary's development as theoretical and practical experts, artists, pastors, teachers, law enforcement professionals, or health care workers, fighting against the pandemic and saving lives in the most difficult terrain. With their achievements and perseverance, in addition to their own well-being, they also created a chance to freely determine the life of their children based on their values.

The coronavirus pandemic and the emergency measures imposed as a result have probably made many reconsider or review their views of the world, their value judgements, or earlier prejudices. I trust that now that the vaccination programme is progressing and when the lifting of the restrictive measures has become a matter of the foreseeable future, the hope of our return to “normal” would not mean our return to our earlier faults at the same time. The many inspiring manifestations of social solidarity experienced during the pandemic, the selfless activities of our Roma and non-Roma “everyday heroes” may serve as an example for us in striving to give hope and active support to those who do not yet see how to break out of their disadvantaged situation.

Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay
Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities, University Professor