Roma people

Roma people
   The Roma, popularly called Gypsies, are an ethnic group who left the Indian subcontinent about a thousand years ago. They appeared in southeastern Europe toward the end of the 13th century. Following a nomadic life, they were soon found throughout Europe and eventually reached the united States. They have not been a literary people, and their history and religion remain relatively unknown. During the Middle Ages, they adopted an overlay of Roman Catholicism, which concealed a magic-oriented religion.
   The Roma have been objects of fear and distrust for centuries, valued as musicians and entertainers but branded as thieves and con artists. They were targeted by the Nazi Holocaust, and perhaps 250,000 to 500,000 were killed.
   In the aftermath of World War II, a variety of Protestant ministries to the Roma have developed. In 1950, in Lisieux, France, a Roma boy was healed at an Assemblies of God church, and news of the healing spread through the Roma community. The boy's older brother later became the first Roma Pentecostal preacher. The first Roma congregation was organized in Brittany by Clément Le Cossec in 1952. Similar incidents produced comparable results in Greece,Portugal, and the united States. A Roma Pentecostal convention was held at Brest, France, in 1954, and a Bible college was opened in 1963. Pentecostalism has given birth to the Gypsy Evangelical Church, which in some countries has added the word Philadelphia to its name.
   The first and for a number of years the only Roma church in the United States was at Texarkana, Arkansas. In 1962, it hosted the first national gathering of Roma Pentecostal Christians. American Baptists have also been active among Gypsies. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), formed in the early 1990s by the moderate group within the Southern Baptist Convention, selected the Roma people as one of their first missionary concerns. Charles T. and Kathie Thomas, CBF's first missionaries, built a ministry program around three teams: the Romany Team (Europe and Russia), the Banjara Team (India), and the Dom Team (Middle East and North Africa). Having discovered that India was home to approximately half the world's 40 million Roma, the Thomases started the Banjara School of Evangelism, which trains indigenous pastors.
   Gypsies For Christ, a British Pentecostal/ Charismatic group based in the Woodford Christian Life Church, London, is an evangelical mission founded in 1975. A similar group, the Romani Gospel Waggon (sic), was created in 1990. The two organizations merged their efforts in 1993 and now concentrate their work in England, HUNGARY, and Romania.
   Further reading:
   ■ Thomas, S. L., "Gypsies," International Dictionary of Pentecostal Charismatic Movements, rev. ed., eds., Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. Van der Mass (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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