The Salvation Army's Roma Mission Network met last 19-21 March
Last Updated: 12 April 2018
by Giacomo MANCA
International Roma Day comes only a couple of weeks after The Salvation Army’s European Roma Mission Network gathered in Luton, UK, for their first ever physical meeting. Delegates from 10 European countries were hosted by members of Luton Corps (Salvation Army church) in family homes. For some of the Roma delegates, this was the first time they were welcomed to stay in non-Roma households, and some British couples had never previously hosted people from other European countries, so the impact of the intended bridge-building went beyond the group’s working conversations.
The Roma network and its associated working groups have been collaborating together electronically since May 2017, working on advocacy, Roma leadership development, integrated social actions and bridge-building. This conference was an exciting opportunity for everyone to meet together in one place to consider the achievements to date and to think through the strategy and focus for the months and years ahead. The four working groups had the possibility to display to the others they priorities in terms of EU policies, development of Salvation Army ministries in Roma communities, as well as integrated social services and trust building within the Roma communities.
Chaired by Major Kathryn Blowers (United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland), the event started with some wider contextual and historical background to ministry among Roma from special guests the Rev Martin Burrell and Commissioner Johnny Kleman (International Secretary for Europe, International Headquarters). Major Blowers encouraged everyone to root their deliberations in God’s Word and to take up the challenge given by God to the prophet Habbakuk to write down his revelation, to make it plain and to run with it (Habakkuk 2:2-3).
The working sessions themselves were blessed with the input of members from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences – Roma and non-Roma, Salvation Army officers, soldiers and employees. With three official languages for the meeting, and numerous others shared across the meal tables, it was a rich time of sharing and the start for a positive cooperation across Europe on many topics of Roma interest.
From reports by the EU Affairs Office and Jo Clark, IHQ