Italy (MNN) ― Italy's Roma communities are coming under fire as anti-immigration sentiment grows under the new government.
Both the Roma and the illegal immigrant populations are blamed for a sharp rise in violent crime. In response, Italian authorities stepped up security operations and began large-scale evictions of Roma communities.
Hundreds of these people have been arrested, deported or had their camps razed or burned by both the authorities and vigilantes.
The somewhat xenophobic atmosphere presents a quandary for ministries. Greater Europe Mission's Peppo Biscarini says they don't have a ministry with this people group--yet. There has been some talk about how best to begin working with these people.
However, based on what the
churches are saying, the situation merits a careful approach. "The
thought of having missionaries coming [to Italy] is not very welcome, to begin with. Plus, the fact that you would associate
yourself with a 'losing team' is almost a double strike. 'They are not even
worthy of receiving the Good News,' in a sense. That's kind of the mindset," said Biscarini.
So begins the tension between credibility and need. On the one hand, they need to keep the doors open to reach the Italians who view the Gospel with skepticism and unbelief. On the other hand, the Roma and illegal immigrants are desperate, poor and despised. There are obvious needs on both sides, and responding requires a careful balance.
Biscarini urges prayer for wisdom in their future work. "You need two callings for Italy. One is a calling for the country to come, and then a second calling, to stay. If you're looking at statistics, basically, 90 percent of the missionaries who come to Italy leave after the first term, never to return."
Other challenges facing the ministry team come from the exchange rates. As the dollar falls against the Euro, it restricts what the American teams can do and how they plan. Keep praying for the teams. Despite the attrition rates, the ministry has roots.
GEM founded the Italian Bible Institute in Rome to teach the Bible and equip Italian believers for ministry to their people. The work of GEM missionaries in Italy continues to this day through education, through the starting of new churches, and through the equipping of Italian believers who can truly impact their towns and their nations.