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Global Focus: The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory - Investing in society's most vulnerable

Global Focus: The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory - Investing in society's most vulnerable

Global Focus: The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory - Investing in society's most vulnerable

Ministry to the Roma (Gypsy) people is one of the focus areas in Slovakia. Above, Captain Vitalie Chiriac and Cadet Roman Farkas, deliver bread to a small Roma settlement near the town of Pezinok.

By Simone Worthing

How well do you know The Salvation Army world? This month, our  column highlights the work in the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia

The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory is part of the Europe Zone of The Salvation Army and has its headquarters in Almere, just outside Amsterdam.

The territorial leaders are Commissioners Hans and Marja van Vliet (Territorial Commander and Territorial President of Women’s Ministries respectively). The commissioners have served in a variety of corps and social appointments, as field secretaries and also spent five years on international service in Papua New Guinea.

The Army’s work in the newest country of the territory – Slovakia – focuses on the Roma (gypsy) population where poverty, abuse, addiction and exclusion, is a way of life. The spiritual need is high and the Army faces many challenges to help the people to get their lives back on track.

Australian officers, Lieutenants-Colonel Stuart and Donna Evans, recently served in The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory as Business Administration Secretary and Education and Training Secretary respectively.

The Gospel is preached in this territory in three languages – Czech, Dutch and Slovak.

An overview of the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory.

HISTORY

Captain and Mrs Joseph K. Tyler, English officers, and Lieutenant Gerrit J. Govaars, a gifted Dutch teacher, commenced Salvation Army work in the Gerard Doustraat, Amsterdam, on 8 May 1887. Operations soon spread throughout the country and reached Indonesia (then The Netherlands East Indies) in 1894. Further advances were made in 1926 in Surinam and in 1927 in Curacao.

Colonel Karl Larsson began Salvation Army operations in Czechoslovakia in 1919. Evangelistic and social activities were maintained until suppressed in June 1950. Under the leadership of Commissioner Reinder J. Schurink, the Netherlands Territory was responsible for the reopening of the work in Czechoslovakia in 1990, and Lieutenants-Colonel Wim and Netty van der Harst were appointed as officers-in-charge.

On 1 February 2002, the territory was renamed The Netherlands and Czech Republic Territory (Czechoslovakia split into two countries – Czech Republic and Slovakia – on 1 January 1993).

The Salvation Army was registered as a Civic Association in Slovakia in August 2014, and its work began to develop under the supervision of The Netherlands and Czech Republic Territory, with emphasis on ministry within the Roma community and a learning program to integrate three existing church congregations into a Salvation Army structure.

On 1 September 2015, the territory was renamed the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory.

RECENT HIGHLIGHTS

In the Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic, The Salvation Army’s new social project – Community Housing Křižánky – is giving clients currently living in Salvation Army residential services throughout the country, the opportunity to learn to live independently again through the provision of housing and help with finances.

In September 2015, The Salvation Army was one of the main organisers of the Homeless World Cup (football) in Amsterdam that was opened by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Many players and coaches from teams from around the world also attended the Army’s Arts and Theatre Gala event where world-class speed skater and sports commentator, Erben Wennemars, was awarded the Majoor Bosshardt Award for his work to promote youth sports.

The six community centres in the Czech Republic are transforming the lives of many clients around the nation.

ROMA (GYPSY) MINISTRY

Captains Josef and Stana Knoflíček, originally from the Czech Republic and who pioneered the work in Slovakia, are the Corps Officers at Pezinok and oversee the growing Roma ministry in Slovakia – one of The Salvation Army’s main focus areas in the country.

Outreach takes place in the three areas of Galanta, Plavecký Štvrtok, and Pezinok. The Roma here live in extreme poverty, are socially excluded, and face a bleak future. The Salvation Army is building relationships with Roma in these three distinct communities and is already providing essential services to meet deep-rooted needs. Much of the current work is geared towards helping children and young people through play activities and after-school groups.

Captain Vitalie Chiriac, Regional Officer for Slovakia, and his team are working to try to change the social exclusion and poverty the Roma face. “We want to improve the living conditions for the people here, to see the children go to school, and more of the adults get work,” explained Captain Vitalie. “We want to see more Roma integrated into the general community and people living together with equal opportunities.”

Captains Josek and Stana Knoflíček coordinate The Salvation Army's ministry to the gypsy population in Slovakia.

THE ANGEL OF AMSTERDAM

Lieutenant-Colonel Alida Bosshardt, better known as Major Bosshardt, came to almost personify The Salvation Army in the Netherlands, and was given a state funeral after her promotion to glory in June 2007.

During World War Two, Bosshardt, who had become a member of The Salvation Army at the age of 18, took care of mostly Jewish children, often smuggling them to safe houses, and putting her own life in danger to keep them fed. In 2004, the State of Israel awarded Major Bosshardt the Yad Vashem Award, the highest honour given to non-Jews for risking their lives during the holocaust to save Jews.

After the war, Major Bosshardt established what would become a life-long ministry in Amsterdam’s red-light district, working among the prostitutes, children, homeless and addicted of this infamous area. In 1965, she accompanied then Crown Princess Beatrix on a secret visit of the red-light district.

The Major Bosshardt Prize was established in 2006. It consists of a certificate and a miniature bronze statue of Bosshardt and is awarded for exceptional service to society. A bronze statue of Major Bosshardt stands today outside The Salvation Army in the red-light district. At her funeral, televised throughout the Netherlands and attended by thousands, the Mayor of Amsterdam called her “the angel of Amsterdam”.

The Salvation Army’s work in the red-light district continues, and is widely respected, today.

The memorial statue to Lieut Bosshardt in Amsterdam's Red Light district.

 

 

 

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