Hope for the Roma

Hated, alienated, and shunned, the Roma have for too long been easy and defenseless targets for Europe's disgruntled racists, with violent attacks escalating in recent months. Only through much stronger efforts can European countries break the nexus of poverty and educational deprivation that traps too many Roma – and leaves them vulnerable to unspeakable abuse.

BRUSSELS – Hated, alienated, and shunned as thieves and worse, the Roma have for too long been easy and defenseless targets for disgruntled racists in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and other European countries.

The Roma, as a people, reaped next to nothing from the prosperity that the former East Bloc countries have enjoyed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nevertheless, even before the current economic downturn, right-wing political leaders in Eastern Europe resorted to Roma-bashing in order to win support on the cheap. The message of hate continues to appeal to many people, including a few who are ready to resort to violence.

In the past 14 months, nine Roma have been murdered during a killing spree in Hungary. In August, gunmen invaded the home of an impoverished Roma widow, Maria Balogh, shot her to death, and wounded her 13-year-old daughter. In April, killers gunned down a Roma factory worker as he was walking to his job. In February, a Roma father and his five-year-old son were killed in front of their home near Budapest. The house was burned to the ground.

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