Italy targets illegal immigrant, migrant communities

By June 5, 2008

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

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

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.

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