Central Europe is home to a large mix of people: different nationalities, languages, ethnicities and cultures. Within this tapestry of people with a variety of backgrounds are Roma people, who have been part of the makeup of Central Europe for hundreds of years. While Roma people have their own ethnicity, they also have adapted to the context in which they live. Tragically, Roma people in Europe have faced terrible forms of oppression throughout history, including, but not limited to, slavery, genocide, forced segregation and other forms of systemic oppression. Though their contributions are often overlooked or minimized, Roma people remain active and vital members of society.
The Lutheran church in Central Europe is one of the minority churches in the region. Even though it is one of the smaller church bodies, there exists a rich history of religious practice and societal engagement. In addition to the challenges of being church in a post-communist society, the rise of nationalism and growing global wealth inequality present local, regional and global challenges for these church bodies.
The church is not free from participating in Roma oppression in the past and even in present day. Whether being a silent bystander to oppressive actions or an active participant, the church shares in the responsibility of the oppression of Roma people. With this context in mind, the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) Central Europe program works with its partner churches and organizations to participate in inclusive and empowering projects and ministries with Roma people.
The ELCA administers the Central Europe program in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, the Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Serbia, the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization, and the Center for Youth Integration. 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 serving in Central Europe come together for orientation and midyear and closing retreats with their country coordinator. During these retreats, the young adults not only reflect on the ways God is at work in their lives and communities, but also on the impact of systemic oppression, power and privilege on their lives and the communities in which they serve. A major emphasis of these retreats is helping the participants to see how their Christian faith can contribute to a world where all humankind is empowered and able to thrive.
YAGM Central Europe volunteers are encouraged to be an active part of a Lutheran worshiping community. Each volunteer serves with Lutheran diaconal or educational ministries as well as nonprofits and/or other Lutheran ministries that empower Roma communities.
Specific work examples include:
College degree or equivalent life experience is required for service in Central Europe.