The Italian government’s plan to fingerprint the Roma people, commonly known as Gypsies, must be condemned by Baptists everywhere.
For a number of years, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has focused its global mission energies in ministering the gospel to this unreached and neglected people group. The CBF has been courageous to advocate for these people that are bereft of nation or place.
Systematic profiling of racially targeted groups has long been a tactic of oppressive powers to isolate and control ethnicities deemed inferior and undesirable.
Throughout history, this has been a common way for a dominant power to bring populations under public and demoralizing subjection.
Such injustice is highlighted and reported in the biblical accounts describing the very birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we are reminded every Christmas Eve, the Gospel of Luke describes in remarkable detail the demeaning tactic of racial profiling. The occupying Roman government in Galilee and Judea required the systematic registration of all the Jewish people in the region.
In fact, the text in Luke 2 tells us there was more than one census, and likely recurring, regular registrations. Requiring the people to submit to such repeated indignity squashed any possible assertion of human rights and self-determination., and delivered a relentless message of disenfranchisement.
Furthermore, the Jewish people were not allowed to register in the city in which they were presently living, but had to travel to the town of their birth in order to be registered. This was a purposeful displacement designed to further humiliate and de-power the masses.
The Romans employed indexing certain populations in order to levy exhaustive and comprehensive control over their subjects.
Now, with the plan to fingerprint the Roma people, the Italian government seeks to do likewise.
As I write this, I am picturing in my mind’s eye the beautiful children of the Romany camp I once visited on the outskirts of a European capital several years ago. It is incomprehensible to think that a respectable member of the global community of nations would require these children to file into an intimidating bureaucracy to be fingerprinted like common criminals.
The baby Jesus was a victim of such state-sanctioned discrimination. Let’s make sure Roma babies are spared it.
Charles Foster Johnson is the interim pastor of the Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, and a member of the Christian Ethics Commission of the Baptist World Alliance.
Charles Foster Johnson is pastor of Bread in Fort Worth, Texas, and founder and executive director of Pastors for Children, a nationwide network of faith leaders mobilized for public education ministry and advocacy.