Fingerprinting Roma in Italy: A Time For Outrage

This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum

“What the duck?”

Those were my exact words (except that I made no mention of water fowl) when, on my car radio, I heard that the newly re-elected Italian Prime Minister’s government, in emulation of Nazi Germany, has begun fingerprinting and registering Roma people living in Italy –—citizens and immigrants alike. (In English the Roma often are called “Gypsies,” a term I’ll avoid using here because most Roma people find the word offensive.)

I’ll admit it: I dropped the F-bomb, the mother of all cuss words. It is language that didn’t exactly match the white dog collar I happened to be wearing at the time (I was driving home from a graveside funeral), but I said it anyway, and I think the sentiment was appropriate, especially for a man of the cloth.

After all, this is 2008, almost seventy years after the Holocaust, when as many as 500,000 Roma people died alongside European Jews in Nazi concentration camps. The human family—especially in Europe—was supposed to evolve beyond such ethnic bigotry. The Holocaust is still a living memory for many people in the world today. What’s wrong with our collective recollection? Continue reading

In Memory of a Genocide

This column was the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on October 15, 2007.

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

When Pearl Aslanian was five, ethnically Turkish Ottoman soldiers entered her village. She watched as they killed her father, and, as the family escaped on foot to Amman, Jordan, she helped her mother bury a younger brother on the banks of the Tigris River.

In March of 2006 I officiated at the Pearl’s funeral and, at the risk of becoming persona non grata in Turkey, I consider it a great honor to have presided at the graveside of someone who was among the last humans able to remember the Turkish genocide of Armenians during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.
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