Pax Christi Austria and Roma
By Jussuf Windischer, Secretary General of Pax Christi Austria
Pax Christi Austria organises monthly meetings with Roma in Innsbruck in order to discuss their actual problems. At the end of summer 2012, we discussed the situation of Roma, Sinti and other different „gipsy“ groups in Austria. Thousands have been killed and eliminated in the Nazi concentratiuon camps (KZ). But even today there is much racism and discrimination of Roma and Sinti (antiziganisme). Many of them are expelled from their homelands, especially in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania etc. Some of them come to Austria to look for means of surviving and gaining a little money. Here in Austria they are suffering discrimination.
Pax Christi Austria discussed their problems and organised the Roma Tirol Platform and a national workshop. There will also be a Pax Christi Commission on this matter.
A local group (Vinzenzgemeinschaft) connected with Pax Christi Austria looked for a place, and found a small farm with some farmland available near Innsbruck. Since 2012, volunteers and Roma restored the house, planted their groceries and organised a small chicken farm. More than 50 volunteers and many young people are involved, not only to support Roma people, but also to do farming and gardening, and to engage in tackling environmental issues. The families who live together with the Roma, are experts in Permaculture. These days we are working to establish a cultural centre in the barn of the farm.
Our philosophy is respect of human rights, environment, justice and peace. A small chapel with the Pax Christ Icon is a strong symbol, showing what we want to do. WE are happy to welcome visitors. In January we had Marie Dennis of Pax Christi International as a much appreciated guest.
Many visitors come to see the „Waldhüttl “ (cabin in the woods). There is also room for refugees, pilgrims – on their way to Santiago de Compostella, and couchsurfers. Many young people are involved. On 31 January 2014, we organised the Roma Ball. Pax Christi Austria asked different organisations and movements to join, to do their own organising. 135 volonteers helped with this event. More than 800 people participated in solidarity. The Mayor of Innsbruck Christine Oppitz-Plörer - she is a Mayor of peace - is supporting our idea and this project. Pax Christi bishop of Austria Manfred Scheuer participated as well along with the abbot of the monastery - who had given us the farm. They both joined the big party. Roma made the music, Roma organized special food, it was a wonderful happening. We were nicely dressed, and we danced until 3 o’clock in the morning.
Pax Christ Austria is dancing, but we also try to fulfill our political engagement with joy, and are happy to do so. There were many children and old people; everybody joined the event of solidarity. Together with our Roma and Sinti friends, we fight for human rights, justice and peace, and we are happy, because we never feel as if we were alone. But we still have a lot to do. Too much antiziganism – we want to get rid of it. In my position as Secretary General of Pax Christi Austria, I can help quite a lot.
To learn more about Vinzenzgemeinschaft Waldhüttl, click here.
To learn more about Pax Christi Austria, click here.