For centuries, people across the world have talked about “gypsies.”
It’s a derogatory term used to belittle and degrade a certain group – the Roma people.
Now, the Roma finally have a chance to speak up and tell the world who they really are and what Christ is doing in their community.
The Roma, or Romani, people have long been “one of the most misunderstood people groups on our planet,” according to a new documentary released by The Good Story.
The documentary, ‘We Are Here,’ studies the history and struggles of the Roma people in an effort to properly share their story.
Featuring interviews with Roma leaders, cultural experts, and missionaries, the documentary connects the Roma’s persistent quest for identity with the power of the Gospel in this often-marginalized community.
No one, not even their own historians, knows quite where the Roma originally came from.
Today, ten to twelve million Romani people live throughout Europe, with significant Roma populations spread all across the world.
About one million Romani people live in the United States. But “no matter where they go, the Roma seem to be unwelcome.”
They’re often viewed as powerless victims of cultural persecution or as mystical, mysterious figures — these “gypsies” who have been shunned, disregarded, and even murdered for centuries all over the world.
But the Roma refuse to be labeled. “Every person has their own story, and every community could be different,” said one interviewee.
“Roma means people,” confided a Romani pastor, making the long-ignored point that the Roma are simply people, just like everyone else.
But the Roma certainly haven’t been treated as such in the past.
Romani history is full of injustices: Romani children are segregated from high-quality education, Romani adults are often passed over for jobs, and the Roma population at large lives well below the poverty line.
“It’s so discouraging to see how deep the pit [is] where the Roma are,” shared another pastor. “It’s just unbelievably dark.”
The situation is much the same all around the world. Wherever they are, the Roma struggle against social and cultural injustice, segregation, and disrespect. They are a suffering people.
But they’re also deeply hungry for spiritual things.
One English pastor, who has shared the Gospel with the Roma in his country for some time, confessed his amazement that the Roma were so interested in God and His kingdom. He couldn’t fathom how a people so poor were so willing to focus on spiritual things.
“I came to the conclusion after some time that… their spiritual passion came directly out of their poverty, out of their marginalization and persecution,” he admitted.
After centuries of facing hatred and discrimination, Romani people around the world yearn for acceptance and belonging. And when they find those things in Christ, they don’t let go.
“For centuries, others have said, ‘you are nothing, you are only a gypsy, you can’t belong here,’” said one Finnish Romani. The radical message of Christ’s love counters everything the Roma have been told.
“I find… the church of Christ is the only tool that can actually… make some lasting bridges,” admitted one Montenegrin pastor, reflecting on the cultural divide between his native country and the Romani people living there.
Christianity in the Roma community has blossomed during the last several decades, even as the Roma have continued to experience persecution. Approximately one-third of all Roma in France, Spain, and Portugal are Christians.
The testimonies of Romani believers often include visions, dreams, and miracles — signs that God is moving powerfully among the Roma people! Romani Christians pursue God with an overwhelming passion that spreads through their communities swiftly.
“When they see the change in our life, they see Jesus,” said a Roma man from India.
“Jesus is very close in these communities, and He is revealing Himself to these people that are so beloved by Him,” added one researcher.
“What’s drawing them is that nearness, that sense that Jesus is among them, that Jesus is loving them.”
It’s imperative that the church demonstrate Christ’s love and acceptance as the Roma grow ever more interested in spiritual things.
So how can the church come alongside the Roma and help this people group grow in their faith?
Well, you’ll have to watch the documentary to find out!
It’s a powerful glimpse into the lives of the Romani people and the story that God is writing through their history of struggle – and it’s a reminder for all of us that only God has the power to define us.
To learn more about The Good Story ministry who produced the documentary, please read our article, How One Ministry Leverages Christian Talent to Help Missionaries Tell Their Story.