by Kenneth Justice
~Okay, so I’m a tad bit more upset than usual this morning. How would you like it if the authorities came to your house and snatched away your child and then tossed you in jail……..and you hadn’t done anything wrong???
That is what is going on in Greece right now.
Last week authorities in Greece raided a Roma camp and snatched away a little girl from her parents; for my American friends who don’t know what Roma means it is short for ‘Romanian’; a group of often times transient people portrayed in Hollywood films as ‘Gypsies’, yet in real life the term Gypsy is considered to be a bit of a racial slur.
Well, the authorities raided a Roma camp and the first thing they do after they arrested all the families was to begin doing DNA testing on the children; apparently in Greece if you are Roma…you are guilty until proven innocent! One of the little girls, named Maria, was found to have different DNA than her Roma parents and that sent the Greek authorities into a tizzy…her Roma parents told the authorities that they did not steal the child, but that a poor mother gave her to them to raise.
The authorities didn’t give a crap about what the Roma parents had to say; they threw the mother and father in jail to await trial and then went on a nationwide search to find the ‘real’ mother and ‘prove’ the Roma parents were lying.
So how did the story end? The authorities DID find the biological mother and it turns out…..the Roma parents were not lying; A 35-year-old Bulgarian Roma woman named Sasha Ruseva was found to be the biological mother of the child and explained that she “gave birth to a baby girl four years ago in Greece while working as an olive picker, and gave the child away because she was too poor to care for her” (article).
This story sounds eerily similar to the way things are done here in the United States; too often people are treated as though they are guilty until they can be proven innocent. Working in the Human Service field I was privy to way too much injustice when it came to poorer families. Suburbanite Social Workers would go into the poor areas of my community and snatch the children away based on false premises.
One of my professors who has spent the last twenty five years of his life working as a lead Social Worker trainer for Inner Cities explained it this way; “If you grow up in the rich suburbs you experience a life where everyone has a mattress in their room and the mattress sits on a bed frame…..but in poorer communities families are simply happy to have a mattress sitting on the floor to sleep in. So a suburban social worker goes into a poor family’s house and they see the mattress sitting on the floor (with no bedframe) and they immediately think their is child abuse going on”
Thus; we have to be careful not to enforce what we believe to be ‘normal’ on other cultures, people groups, etc. What we believe to be ‘normal’ isn’t necessarily normal for everyone. For instance, when it comes to sleeping situations many Asian families never use bedframes…..but rather, they roll out their beds onto the floor each night.
I don’t want to make it sound as though the Roma are a perfect people….they are not….but neither is any other people group. Yet, no matter what sins or faults your people group is guilty of; should that mean you are presumed guilty until proven innocent?
Perhaps I am merely guilty of hoisting up an American principle as something all cultures should adhere to; “Innocent until proven guilty” but isn’t this a principle that we can all get behind? After all, there are a few universal principles that all of humanity recognizes, we refer to them as natural law;
—) No slaying of the innocent
—) Tyranny is wrong
—) Cowards are not honored
There are some principles which are so embedded within our consciences that you’ll never meet a human being that doesn’t recognize them; for instance, even among the most remote tribal community cowards are never treated as hero’s.
Will the authorities in Greece give the child back to the Roma parents? I don’t know. I can’t imagine how scary it must be for the little girl to have been ripped away from the only parents she has ever known. I can’t imagine how sad the Roma mother is who has spent the last four years loving this child…..only to have her ripped from her arms.
My prayers go out to them both…….
My heart is heavy as I sit here at coffee this morning,
Categories: Culture & Society