Tag Archives: Hungary

Baer, “The Struggle of Hungarian Lutherans under Communism”

Last Month, Texas A&M University Press published The Struggle of Hungarian Lutherans under Communism by H. David Baer (Texas Lutheran University).  The publisher’s description follows.The Struggle of Hungarian Lutherans

What does a religious community do when confronted by a political regime determined to eliminate a religion? Under communism, Hungary’s persecuted Lutheran Church tried desperately to find a strategy for survival while remaining faithful to its Christian beliefs. Appealing to the Lutheran Confessions, many argued that the church can do whatever is necessary to survive provided it does not compromise on its essential ministry, while others appealing to the witness of the confessor Bishop Lajos Ordass argued that the church must uncompromisingly witness to the truth even if that means ecclesiological extinction.

In The Struggle of Hungarian Lutherans under Communism, H. David Baer draws upon the disciplines of theology, history, ethics, and politics to provide a comprehensive analysis of the different strategies developed by the church to preserve its integrity. Relying on previously unnoted archival documents and other primary sources, Baer has made a substantial contribution to Eastern European studies.

Vigorously written, his telling of the history is also a sensitive and moving account of courage and cowardice in the fact of religious persecution. This book should be of interest not only to students of religion in Eastern Europe but also to anyone concerned about the problems that arise wherever there is religious persecution.

Ax Murderers, Values, and International Law

At a NATO conference in Hungary in 2004, an Azeri officer, Ramil Safarov, murdered one of the other participants, an Armenian officer named Gurgen Margaryan. Actually, that doesn’t quite capture it. Safarov broke into Margaryan’s room, stabbed him while he was sleeping, then severed his neck with an ax. Safarov confessed to the crime; Hungary convicted him of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Two weeks ago, Hungary extradited Safarov to Azerbaijan, which promptly pardoned him, promoted him, restored his back pay for his years in the Hungarian prison, and generally gave him a hero’s welcome.

The extradition and pardon have caused a storm of protest — from Armenia, of course, but also from the UN, NATO, the US, Russia, and several church bodies within and outside Hungary. Hungary’s  Lutheran and Reformed Churches wrote to condemn “the unacceptable amnesty” given Safarov. The Hungarian Catholic Bishops Conference was more circumspect, writing only to express solidarity with Armenians and condemn ethnic violence, but the point was clear. The World Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches in the US, also condemned the actions of Hungary and Azerbaijan. On Friday, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, through a spokesman, strongly criticized the pardon, stating that “ethnically motivated hate crimes of this gravity should be deplored and properly punished.”

How can one begin to make sense of this incredible episode? It’s important to focus on three things. First, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for twenty years in one of the Caucasus’s “frozen conflicts,” a dispute over the region of Nagorno-Karabagh. Indeed, Azerbaijan alleges that Safarov was incited by Margaryan’s insults to the Azeri flag — at his trial, Safarov did not mention any such insults, and of course they could not have justified this brutal murder even if they had occurred — and by injuries Safarov’s family suffered in Continue reading

Hungarian Church Registration Law Criticized by Council of Europe SG

This story reports the critical comments of Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, with respect to Hungary’s comparatively restrictive policies on official recognition of religious organizations.  According to the story, official status grants the religious institution certain benefits, including various subsidies and tax advantages.  The new law reduced the number of officially recognized religions from 350 to 32, and there have been criticisms that it is insufficiently accommodating of religious liberty.  Something headed to the ECtHR.?