Roma and non-Roma young people have met in Rimavska Sobota, Slovakia in order to discuss about politically important topics, such as radical parties and radical approaches against minorities; and the functioning of the local authorities and decision making processes. The youngsters had the chance to think about and react on the exclusion and oppression that Roma people have to face with in Slovakia.
30 Roma and non-Roma high-school students arrived to the 2 days long meeting organized in the Csillagház, between 29-30 November. The event started with name games and continued with an important and harsh topic: namely, the serial killings against Roma people in Hungary. Attila Hidvégi-Balogh has followed the horrible events as a journalist: He visited the places where the murders happened, but also took part in the trials as an observer in order to provide information to the public about it. Attila gave a realistic overview of the serial killings against the Roma communities in Hungary, presenting atrocities which Roma had to face with prior to the killings and the social effects which were caused by the political activities of the radical parties and racist paramilitary groups. During the discussions that followed, it turned out that the participants have never heard about the tragic serial killings against the Roma people in Hungary, which happened in 2008-2009. The organizers thought that it is important to speak about the serial killings, if we mention the radicals, antigypsyism, and the hate crimes against Roma, which are growing nowadays in Slovakia and in the region too.
After concluding the hard topic, the participants had the chance to speak with Zsuzsanna Tóth, the leader of the Roma Mission of the Reformed Christian Church of Slovakia. Zsuzsanna started her speech with the following question: “Why is the leader of the Roma mission a non-Roma person?” and she answered it later by speaking about identity, community strengthening activities, and about the stereotypes and discrimination against the minorities. She highlighted that it is also important to support the different minority groups in order to be able to cooperate with each other and live in peace together.
Since a youth event shouldn’t end without music and dance, we invited the Romano Glaso band to play music for us and lead a super interactive workshop for the young participants. The Hungarian band, consisting of young Roma and non-Roma artists (singers and dancers), started with Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, Spanish, Russian and Roma songs, and later they invited the youth to play rhythmic games and lead a dance workshop, while they played Romani songs.
The second day started with the presentation of Gizella Kubačka, the director of a private secondary school based in Rimavska Sobota. Gizella spoke about the different opportunities provided by the secondary school, such as the international mobility programs. Since Phiren Amenca also has international mobility projects, Marietta Herfort, the managing director of the Phiren Amenca International Network introduced the different programs of the organization, which could be useful for the participants in the near future.
The aim of the second day was to connect the youth with the decision makers. The organizers led thematic discussions involving the local authorities. Dušan Váradi gave an interesting and easily understandable presentation about the functioning of the local authorities and responsibilities of the representatives. Radič Ján, local mayors also provided information about the work of the local authorities and explained the main tasks and duties of a mayor.
István Vavrek, the MP from the Most-Híd party was one of the organizers and he was present at the two days long meeting, but it is important to mention that he was not taking part in the event as a politician. Whereas, the discussions with the participants mainly focused on public affairs, the organizers were conscious not to talk about ideologies and party politics. The young participants of the meeting were able to speak with the members of the local authorities and with the mayors about the situation of the Slovakian Roma, the connection between Roma and non-Roma people and communities, and the importance of involving young Roma in politics.
As the closing of the meeting, Csaba Horváth gave a presentation about the Opre Roma! initiative in order to introduce the topic of Roma movements to the young Roma and non-Roma people, who were also invited to the next event of the initiative.
During the two days long meeting, it was visible from the feedbacks that the youngsters need more opportunities for sharing their ideas and opinions about Roma issues, but also to learn about the history and actual situation of Roma in order to strengthen their Roma identity and become active citizens and advocates of Roma issues.