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Europe’s Gypsy revival

Gypsy wagon at Grandborough Fields, England.
Credit: Andy F/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 2.0

There is a revival taking place among the Gypsies of Britain, but it is also causing a bit of controversy at a religious festival that recently took place in Rutland, a small market town in England.

Also referred to as travellers or Romani, many of this group lead a nomadic life, living in trailers or caravans as they are referred to in England, travelling back and forth across Britain, with the summer being their most active time.

They earn their living by providing casual workers for agriculture, asphalt paving and as well selling horses, scrap metal, wood sculptures and other items and as well by holding fairs.

Many have settled down and bought permanent homes, but still travel to festivals and other Romani gatherings. The group is made up of people who migrated to Europe from Northern India between the 10th and 12th century.

But there is increasing evidence that God is moving in a powerful way among this often stigmatized group, as a recent article in the Daily Mail spoke of a Pentecostal festival being held at the small market town of Rutland, located in the English midlands.

The Gypsy-Christian festival, called the Festival of Light and Life, has attracted over 1,500 travellers and hundreds of trailers. There are about 90 Romani pastors and 40 stewards helping manage the festival.

The group has set up a large tent for services that are packed out and featured a Christian band, worship, preaching and dancing.

But it hasn’t come without some controversy.

Part of it stems around the meetings that are breaking Britain’s COVID lockdown rules that only allow 30 people to attend church services.

Secondly, attendance was much larger than initially expected and put pressure on the nearby town. Some businesses in the small community of Rutland are reporting an increase in shoplifting. Residents are also stating that their life is being disrupted by drag racing and vandalism.

According to the organizers, several have shown up at the festival who are not part of the religious gathering that was the focus of the festival.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Elijah Ward, one of the festival’s organizers, stated:

‘We are a Christian community and we are followers of Jesus. A lot of non-Christians have attended. Jesus says we should go into the community and preach the good news of the lord and that is what we are doing. We are trying to preach the gospel to them… to help them change their ways.’

A spokesperson with the Rutland Agricultural Society, that rented the fields for the festival, added that a small minority are causing a ‘disproportionate amount of antisocial activity’.

Others added that the disturbances have not been as widespread as the accusations suggest, and even the police admit that some criticism may be due to long-standing prejudices that people have against travellers.

According to a 2011 government survey, about 58,000 of Brits identify as travellers, but many believe the number is much higher, perhaps closer to 200,000.

But what is happening in Rutland provides only a small picture of the move of God taking place among the Gypsies. There are an estimated 12 million travellers across Europe, and an estimated four million have now embraced Pentecostal Christianity.

This remarkable transition has been so rapid and unexpected, that researchers from several universities across Europe are studying the revival to try to find out what is behind the rapid transformation taking place among the Gypsies.

Travellers have been stigmatized in Britain for decades because a smaller percentage of the group set up caravans illegally on private land and as well taken to criminal activity such as stealing and vandalism.

Even during World War II, Nazi Germany sent hundreds of thousands of Gypsies to the death camps as part of its planned genocide.

According to one government report, approximately 5% of the Gypsy population is in jail, compared to only .13% for the remaining British population.

Professional, heavy-weight boxer, Tyson Fury, was apparently led to the Lord by his uncle, a Pentecostal Gypsy preacher in Cheshire, England.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)

READ: Inside the travellers’ religious revival: Scared locals complain about ‘another 24 hours of absolute carnage as intimidating mobs’ roam market town after 1,500 travellers arrive for ‘Pentecostal’ festival AND 9 myths and the truth about Gypsies and Tra

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