Gypsy, Move On: Roma Church Evicted in Fort Lauderdale

Last week, the Christian Romany Church in Fort Lauderdale learned it would be evicted within a month to "make way for at least one government social services center," according to the Sun-Sentinel. This sad little story contains more than a little historical irony, which went unremarked upon in the media covering it.

The Christian Romany Church has about 250 members, all of whom are Roma. Gypsies, in other words -- the descendants of many generations of European wanderers who came out of India (or Egypt, if you ask the French) in the Middle Ages. As it happens, they're no strangers to forced relocation. Their millennium-long sojourn through Europe has seen them booted from almost every place where they've tried to erect a home. And that's when they were lucky.

They were kept as slaves in Wallachia and Moldova until the 19th Century. In the Holy Roman Empire of the 18th Century, under Joseph I, Roma men were hanged and their wives and children "flogged and banished." Elsewhere, they had their ears cut off or were branded so that other folk would know them on sight. Charles VI ordered Romani women executed and their children locked up in sanitariums. In the 20th Century, they were a primary target of Hitler's exterminations.

And now they're here and having their church taken from them. To be fair, the eviction might well have gone forward if the church were Methodist. It wasn't, of course, so we'll never know. Still -- it seems like our city's leaders would have hesitated to forcibly relocate the worship place of any oft-put-upon minority with a better publicist.

On the site of the church, in the Edgewood neighborhood, the county intends to build a substance-abuse treatment center and sanctuary for victims of sexual assault. Building plans have yet to be finalized.

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