An excellent experience awaited on Saturday, April 8, 2017, the twelve-member group of young Roma, the ROMALEOI from Aliveri of the New Ionia, Volos (prefecture of Magnesia), as they were welcomed at the Presidential Mansion by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Dr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, on the occasion of the World Roma Day.
The Children were accompanied by His Eminence, Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias, who initiated the meeting, as well as by Reverend Father Maximus Papaioannou (who is in spiritual charge of the Roma community), Dr. Chris Govaris, Professor at the Department of Education, University of Thessaly in Volos, and Mrs. Julia Triantafyllou, responsible for the actions in the Roma Support Center in Aliveri, Municipality of Volos.
His Excellency, Mr. President, welcomed cordially the children, spoke with each one separately and showed his appreciation for the work of our Local Church with regard to the socially sensitive Roma community, in collaboration with other local actors, aiming to the socialization of young Roma, through their introduction and consolidation in the educational process.
Dr. Pavlopoulos, in his address noted that “through you we celebrate today the International Roma Day. The Greek society, going through hard days, must maintain its cohesion, it must not be broken. In order to achieve this, it must remain what it has always been, a democratic society, which encloses solidarity within its own DNA, not as a declaration, but as a feeling of common experience for everyone. However, a democratic society should involve all its democratic parts, shape its course through everyone’s contribution. Consequently, it is a society open and receptive of each contribution. Nevertheless, in order for this to happen, in order to have free participation of all citizens, we must accept a truth that comes from God: we are not all alike. There is dissimilarity and that constitutes society’s greatness. We must learn to respect diversity, to accept what everyone is and what he can do reliant on his singularity. In order for us, though, to participate and respect diversity, we need to follow a basic principle, which stems from the Constitution itself. It is the constitutional principle of the society itself, but especially the state itself. It is the principle of equality. The real equality, however, is the proportional equality. It is just as Aristotle had described it, as it was implemented later in the current Constitution. Analog equality means that we should treat equally people equal to each other, to their mentality, to their contributions. But when we have different people, we must treat them unequally, meaning, i.e. that we should take into account their specificity and individuality. So, real equality means equal treatment of the same things, but uneven treatment regarding unequal things. If the opposite occurs, we do not apply the principle of equality, we just flatten people.
So today, World Roma Day, I want to tell you, as President and as a simple citizen as well, that the Roma are an integral part of our society. I want to ask you to feel it, to participate, to take within you what you can. I know that you are a different part of our society, there are also many different pieces, but valuable pieces. And you should believe in this. And I want you to know that I will do everything, and the state will do everything, in order to give to each one of you the chance to pull through his personality what he may can. You should believe in these principles. Only if you believe you can carry them out and give to your families and the society what you can afford. See what many of you have contributed, not only in the Greek society, but internationally as well. Do not feel at all disadvantaged. Men and women feel disadvantaged voluntarily or when he has no strength to do otherwise. Please regain your strength, show that through your individuality, you are stronger in this difficult struggle of life”.
Addressing to his Eminence Metropolitan Ignatius, Mr. President congratulated him for the initiative, “which corresponds to your character, whom I know for years, but also responds to the “conviction” of the Church itself, because it has taught us, through its organization and operation, the meaning of the organized society, the democratic society, the participatory society that respects individuality. You can teach us even more through your cooperation, with these schools that keep our children. Happy Easter, in every sense of the word: religious and general as well”.
For his part, His Eminence, Metropolitan Ignatius stated: “Your Excellency Mr. President of the Hellenic Republic,
It is a great honor for Greece and especially for the city of Volos, that you have accepted to host our ROMALEOI, i.e., our children from the Roma community, which they particularly celebrate today, World Roma Day, here in the Presidential Mansion.
And is benevolent juncture that this Day coincides with the celebration of the Resurrection of Lazarus, which pre-depicts the Resurrection of Christ, i.e., Easter, which means Passage. A Passage attempts to create the joint effort of both our Metropolis, the University of Thessaly and Volos Municipal social services for the Roma children and their whole community from isolation in socialization, from marginalization in the coexistence, from disposal in the acceptance and recognition.
In this joint effort, Mr. President, the education community contributes as well with teachers and professors doing their best for these students.
Our aim is to support children, boys and girls, to complete their schooling and have all the equipment for a decent life in our beautiful homeland.
Also, we make sure to convince the society of many, for an equal reception of our fellow Roma, refusing any degrading behavior and especially their racist treatment.
Thank you wholeheartedly for the current event. Be sure that the symbolism and your message will stimulate not only our own but all respective efforts in many parts of Greece and of course all our fellow Roma. Be sure that these children today got a great lesson, they learned what it means to have in Greece a President who knows how to support the Republic, that the President is the person who unites all Greeks, without exception, and believe me, these children are diamonds that sparkle, so we try to give them that option.
Thank you, and Happy Easter!”.
For his part, Dr. Govaris expressed his emotions and thanked for the reception, “is symbolic, but the experience of recognition is an important incentive for the children, in their daily struggle to satisfy an inner recognition request from Volos society and the rest of Greece. Fortunately, the Greek State supports children’s effort …”.
Mrs. Triantafyllou said: “it is a great honor for us to meet with you, even more, it is a great recognition of the trouble that make children finish school … It is very important to feel that the state stands next to them, as in your face, and in our local community, both from the Metropolis of Demetrias, and by the Municipality of Volos in Thessaly”.
It is worth noting that the pastoral work of our Local Church in Roma community systematized in October 2014, resulted in a fifteen teenage Roma team under the name ROMALEOI, that participated in a broad set of actions such as: getting involved in sports activities, contact with the Children’s Ombudsman, giving information on career guidance, communicating with other Roma communities etc. The common target of these actions is the integration of these children in Volos society, the formation of a positive model of harmonious coexistence of different social groups, providing at the same time cultural and artistic elements, through theatrical performances, radio shows and participation in artistic institutions.