ROMA PEOPLE AND THE LOCALS: FROM CULTURE CLASH TO MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING
Main Aims: The project aims to promote mutual understanding between locals, and Roma dwellers in target areas, in order to minimize conflict escalation and fostering mutual trust and respect.
Background: The Roma (or Romani) people, widely known as ‘Gypsies’, are an ethnic group of Indian origin, migrated to Europe and elsewhere some 1,000 years ago, and notoriously ill integrated with local communities in the countries they settle in. Roma have been maintaining, indeed, a proud isolation for centuries and this has led, together with their perceived incompatible way of living, and frequent recourse to petty offences, to persecution and discrimination. Even today, in most ‘civilized’ countries, relations between local communities and resident or passing-by Roma are badly structured. Roma are generally depicted as intolerable aliens, and often become the target of raging reactions. On their part, Roma tend to stone-building, refusing integration, and maintaining urticating behaviors; this amplifies occasions of conflict, in spite of recurrent normalizing efforts put into place by local authorities. All this seems to represent a perfect instance of latent conflict that can suddenly break locally into drama, as frequently reported in the press, as well as an example of the Other’s demonization.
Many ways of managing conflict situation have been experienced; unfortunately, most have proved ineffective. However, the ‘transformative dialogue’ practice has opened new perspectives in the recent times, having been successfully tested as one of most effective avenues to change the dynamics of destructive intergroup conflict spirals.
The project is expected to generate a permanent change of perspective in the individuals and groups involved, and also to determine up-streaming effects with regard of similar types of inter-ethnical cultural clashes.
a) Selecting target areas where to test transformative dialogue between Roma and local communities. A Rotary inter-club, or inter-district co-operation is advisable.
b) Conducting an analysis of selected target areas local situation, and preparing a plan for intervention based on transformative dialogue involving local community’s leaders (mayors, civil servants, leaders of opinion, and political groups), and leaders from the Roma community.
c) Training local intervenors to serve as transformative dialogue facilitators, and intervenors in the conflict intergroup talks.
d) Monitoring the program implementation, and assure adequate visibility among the potential users, and the media.
e) Put into place the adequate checks and activate continuing communication channels in order to assure sustainability of the project.