Romany correct term for Gypsy
Although better known as "gypsies" this people group speaks a language known as Romani, which is based on ancient Sanskrit, and is still related to other languages of their original homeland of northern India.
The correct and less offensive term for this ethno-linguistic group is Romany.
The Romany began migrating north and west from what is now Pakistan around the 10th century. This dark Caucasoid people continued its repeated migrations, reaching Persia by the 11th century; southeast Europe by the 15th century; and North America, South America and Australia by the 20th century.
Although they are spread throughout the world and belong to a variety of tribes, the gypsies still cling to their Romany language and culture. Many maintain their heritage by their outstanding characteristics of steadfastness, creativity, self-consciousness and love for freedom. There is a strong sense of group solidarity and exclusiveness, keeping the Gypsy traditions sacred.
History of persecution continues to this day
They were persecuted from the beginning. The Ottoman Empire used them as slaves. During World War II, the Nazis exterminated a half-million Romany people as undesirable aliens. Many European countries exported them. Even the church was hostile to them because they practiced magic.
Today, there is an alarming trend of violence and discrimination against the Romany people in Central and Eastern Europe. From citizenship restrictions to mob violence, the gypsies continue to be a scapegoat minority.
Nomads no more
The nomadic or semi-nomadic culture of the Romanies is slowly giving way to more permanent residences. In the past, the Romanies migrated along patterned routes which usually ignored national boundaries, using familial contacts and links.
Even those who have settled continue to live on the fringes of society, still considered outcasts. Many pursue what are considered traditional occupations for gypsies, working as musicians, acrobats, fair and circus artists, horse riders and traders, fortune-tellers, peddlers and craftsmen.
High unemployment, illiteracy and death rates are common among the Romany, who are often the poorest of the poor.
Profile: Opening doors through language
Gypsies are open to the gospel when it is communicated in their own language and adapted to their culture. One of CBF's Global Missions field personnel discovered this to be true when he visited a Gypsy section of a small town in Albania. Here is his account of the experience: