Column CEO: Freedom

Written by: Agnes Kroese, CEO of Dorcas


I’m in Romania.  Together with teacher Christina, I walk through a neighbourhood where most people are Roma. We visit projects of local partner organisations. Suddenly, Julia comes running towards us, a girl in a brightly coloured dress with a big smile on her face.  Enthusiastically, she wraps her arms around her teacher. Christina responds to the embrace and hugs Julia back. 

Julia feels it 

 This may seem normal to you, but for Julia, it isn’t. The Roma neighbourhood is usually avoided by her fellow villagers. And even though Julia is still so young, she feels it. She notices others talking about her. 

At school, Julia struggled to keep up. Until Christina saw her and the other Roma children. She helped them by giving extra tutoring. What Christina does might not seem so important.  But it is small gestures like these that make a big difference in the lives of people who are excluded. 

Celebrating freedom 

Today we pause and remember. Tomorrow, we celebrate freedom. These two days evoke mixed feelings in me every year. Of course, I am grateful for the freedom we live in, but it still feels double. Worldwide, there are still millions of people who are excluded, oppressed, or worse. I can’t celebrate freedom without thinking about all those people who don’t live in freedom. 

Persecution of Roma 

The Roma community that Julia is part of lives in freedom, but is still stigmatised and excluded. Most of them live in Romania, where there are about two million of them. They too were heavily persecuted during the Second World War. Up to half a million Roma lost their lives in labour and concentration camps. 

After this horrific violence against them – and against all those other population groups – we have unanimously said, ‘Never again!’ And yet, the Roma community is still looked down upon today. They are marginalised and have fewer opportunities. So, they live in freedom, but are they truly free? 

Never again! 

Then I am grateful for people like Christina. People full of love for others, who dare to go against the tide. They don’t look away, they look around. Through all the prejudice, they see the person. 

Let us follow the example of people like Christina. And let us work together, with love and compassion, for a world where freedom and equality are for all. Only then can we say, ‘Never again!’ 

Agnes Kroes is CEO of Dorcas. Agnes:”I contribute with great dedication to our mission in creating opportunities for people and communities to flourish. One of the ways I do this is through a monthly column in Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad. In this column, I share insights from my professional experience at Dorcas. My aim is to inspire, inform and encourage readers to engage with Dorcas’ initiatives, campaigns, and projects.

03 May 2024

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