As Slovakia says: 'Šťastné Narodeniny Armáda Spásy' (Happy Birthday Salvation Army), the first anniversary of the official opening of The Salvation Army in the country is being marked by the release of an inspiring new documentary film by the International Headquarters Communications Section. Slovakia became the 127th country to have a recognised Salvation Army presence on 1 September 2015.
Over the past 12 months, The Salvation Army’s work in Slovakia has grown. In the capital, for example, Bratislava Corps (church) has established a particular ministry to homeless people in the city. The Salvation Army provides food, clothing, education and help with accessing essential services such as healthcare and housing advice. Many of the clients attend and take an active role in Sunday worship. The Salvation Army also provides practical, emotional and spiritual support in several Roma communities (sometimes known as gypsies or travellers) within an hour’s drive of Bratislava.
The Roma people are often shunned and discriminated against by other Slovakians. Roma settlements tend to consist of substandard – often self-built – housing which lacks power and water. There are high levels of poverty, unemployment, crime and ill-health. The Salvation Army is advocating for and empowering such communities.
It was this ministry that particularly struck Commissioner Birgitte Brekke-Clifton (International Secretary for Europe) as she visited the country with Commissioners Hans and Marja van Vliet (leaders of The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory). Overseen by Captains Josef and Stana Knoflíček, much of the day-to-day work is led by Salvation Army cadets (trainee officers) who are themselves Roma. They have built bridges in three distinct communities and are already providing essential services to meet deep-rooted needs. Presently, much of the work is geared towards helping children and young people through play activities and after-school groups.
In a reflection to camera during her first visit to The Salvation Army’s centre in Galanta, the International Secretary says: ‘What struck me most was, when they had a little gathering with the children, they prayed for us – many of the children prayed for us. It reminded me again that it is not “them and us” but we are together in this. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.’
The film, produced by Gary Rose (Multimedia Resources Assistant, IHQ Communications), illustrates the stark conditions that many Roma live in and shows how the Army is trying to address the needs. In Pezinok, the viewer is introduced to František, a Roma Christian wheelchair user who shares of the discrimination he’s encountered, and his hope that his children might be spared a similar experience. A section in Plavecký Štvrtok shows what life is like at a Salvation Army church in a community divided by a concrete barrier. And in Galanta, a Roma grandmother shares her favourite Bible verse as she gives thanks to God for answering her prayer for safe, secure accommodation.
Watch the film here: