null Communication from the Minority Ombudsman on the occasion of International Roma Day

8 April is a worldwide celebration of the values of Roma culture. However, in recent years – and also this year – the whole world has experienced and is experiencing crises unprecedented in decades, and it is therefore essential that, in addition to highlighting the importance of Roma culture, we also draw attention to current social challenges on this day. The health and social crisis, social distancing measures, online education, the slowdown in economic growth, the aggression against Ukraine and the wave of refugees resulting from the protracted war are all events in which it is particularly important to listen to each other, to think and act together with vulnerable groups in society. Learning about and promoting Roma cultural values is an excellent way to do this. 

In 1991, the United Nations declared 8 April as World Roma Day, to commemorate and remember the first World Roma Congress, held in London in 1971, as the first significant international step towards the affirmation of Roma identity. This day has become a symbol of the recognition of Roma culture. However, the opportunities and openness of members of society are largely determined by the contemporary context. 

Today, we are faced with serious and inescapable problems. The challenges and hardships of recent years have made the struggle with the pandemic and its social, economic and educational consequences a real experience for all of us. The pandemic situation has posed a huge challenge also for Roma artists as cultural life and programmes were shifted to the online space. In addition to these challenges, the war has been an unrelenting reminder to respect each other's cultures and human dignity.

It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that we are witnessing extraordinary and historic times, but when, in addition to the trials and tribulations, we are also given the opportunity to look at the world through different eyes, revising our previous routines and prejudices. Let us also use this new chance to recognise the values that we have ignored or not sufficiently taken into account in “good old peaceful days”. The inspiring expressions of social solidarity and the many examples of overcoming adversity, together with the sacrifice of professionals of Roma origin, are examples for us all to follow. In the same way, there are still many members of mainstream society for whom an encounter with the true values of Roma culture can be a new and enriching experience.

I have unfailing hope that the inhuman war in our neighbourhood will end in the near future and that the vast majority of displaced people will be able to return to their homes. But until then, we must do everything we can to help and support refugees, including our most vulnerable Roma fellow citizens.

The words of Martin Luther King can guide us today, as always: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Budapest, 8 April, 2022

                                                                                        Prof. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay

                                                                                              Minority Ombudsman