For a number of years the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has either been a participant with or supporter of Phiren Amenca and its forerunner, the Roma-Gadge Dialogue Through Service. In September 2013 five ELCA young adult volunteers arrived from the USA and Canada to spend a volunteer year in separate locations across Hungary, all related to Romani populations and projects.
After about one month of service in their communities, the volunteers came to Budapest for a few days of retreat. As a church-related group, part of the purpose of the retreat was to reflect upon this volunteer year and Roma in Europe through theological and biblical reflections, as well as through other forms of non-formal education such as film and encounters with resource people such as the Phiren Amenca coordinating team.
Biblically, the group reflected on calls to pursuing justice from the Hebrew prophets and the words of Jesus. Theologically, the group reflected on the connections and especially the disconnections between gospel, church and culture.. Case studies were presented by each participant reflecting challenges already encountered, and options for response.
The group met with a Romologist from the Reformed Church in Hungary for some historic background. Clearly, however, the movie A People Uncounted was a dramatic and engaging introduction to some of the major themes/issues of being Roma in Europe, both in terms of mid-twentieth century history and with ramifications for today.
The time spent with the Phiren Amenca coordination team on Antigypsyism and Romaphobia was greatly appreciated, and team members all concluded the encounter with interest in finding similar opportunities in the future to explore these issues in greater depth.