The injustices faced by the Roma people (Gypsies) may be the major human rights issue in Europe today. Who the Roma are and where they come from is a topic of some debate, but throughout their history the Roma have been subjected to persecution, forced assimilation, enslavement and even genocide. Roma continue to face rejection, mistrust, fear and violence from the dominant culture. The situation of Roma presents challenges to European society and the church.
In addition, in post-Communist Central Europe, our Lutheran partner churches are exploring what it means to be church in a post-modern age, when “Christendom” is no more. Not unlike the ELCA, Central European Lutheran churches face the reality of growing secularism and materialism in the surrounding culture, as well as increasing ethnic and religious diversity in the larger population. Lutheran congregations and their associated educational and diaconal ministries continue working to further God’s mission in these uncharted waters.
What opportunities are available?
The ELCA administers the Central Europe program in partnership with the Hungarian Lutheran Church (Magyarországi Evangélikus Egyház). ELCA young adults are selected to serve in Central Europe at the Discernment, Interview and Placement Event, with country and placement assignments determined in late spring/early summer.
ELCA young adults are each based at a Hungarian Lutheran congregation with its associated diaconal or educational ministries. Therefore each young adult becomes involved in congregational life and works throughout the week in one or more Lutheran-run institutions. In each unique context, volunteers are connected explicitly or implicitly with members of Roma communities.
Specific work examples include: providing musical leadership in worship and youth group; teaching English and religion in Lutheran primary and secondary schools, providing care for young Roma children in a church-run day care center, serving meals at homeless shelters and providing companionship to seniors in elder-care facilities, and accompanying university-aged Roma students through the Roma College program.
ELCA young adults serving in Central Europe come together for orientation, mid-year, and closing retreats with their country coordinator. They also join with young adult Roma and non-Roma (Gadje) volunteers in a seminar run by Phiren Amenca. The seminars of Phiren Amenca (formerly the Roma-Gadje Dialogue through Service) work to promote understanding of the social, cultural, political and religious issues facing Roma communities today, and to challenge the still-widespread anti-Gypsyism throughout Europe.
College degree or equivalent life experience is required for service in Central Europe.