Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Laslo Tokes and the overthrow of communism in 1989

This post outlines the story that I partly tell in my previous blog. I would recommend reading that article before this. 

In December 1989, a protest broke out in Timişoara in response to an attempt by the government to evict a dissident, Hungarian Reformed church Pastor László Tőkés
László Tőkés had been living in London, attending All Souls Langham Place, next to the BBC. He knew Bible expositor Revd John Stott, who wrote "Issues Facing Christians Today". John Stott had a comprehensive understanding of Bible principles and he keenly and carefully shared these principles in writing, to show how to  tackle modern life.  Tőkés had gone back to Romania to start a similar teaching ministry work in Communist Eastern Europe. 
The background to the 1989 uprising was that Tőkés was critical about the Romanian Systematization policy (which had been brought to Romania from North Korea) to foreign media. He said that the "Romanians did not know their human rights", openly on Hungarian TV. The interview, which was transmitted in the border areas with Hungary then across Romania, created a shock wave in Romania, affecting all the people of Romania. Naked truth had brought them to their senses and it changed them, in an instant. Basic human rights had been non-existent in Romania, as we know from later TV documentaries on the inhuman treatment of orphans
The authorities claimed that Tőkés was inciting ethnic hatred. So his bishop, under pressure from the state, removed him from his post, threw him out of his flat and then earmarked him for a pastorate in the country. 
His Reformed parishioners gathered round to protect him from eviction from his flat and from worse violence. Passers-by, including religious students, joined in. The local mayor pretended to overturn the bishop's decision, but when the Mayor would not confirm his statement against the planned eviction in writing, the crowd started chanting against Communism. The police used tear gas, water jets, beat up rioters and arrested many of the crowd. The rioters regrouped around the Orthodox Cathedral and started a protest march around the city. Again, they were confronted by the powers, still just, in control. 
Back in London, Revd John Stott was on his knees praying for Tőkés and the church, who were both risking their lives. The world's media were on tenterhooks for several days, astonished at events but expecting the worst. 
But apart from about 70 deaths from the uprising, Tokes and the church survived. They did mortal damage to Eastern Communism. Within a short time, its dictatorship in Romania fell from power.That was just the start of the astonishing subsequent collapse of Soviet communism which ended with the destruction of the Berlin Wall. 
László Tőkés went on to set up a large Christian University and other institutions in Eastern Europe, to light again the Christian lamp that Communism had tried to put out. He has also been waging a battle to try to retrieve the churches, schools and other properties confiscated by Communism. He did this only after turning down of the offer of the Presidency of free Romania.  (For his wider career as an independent politician since, see the links).
The point I am making is that the darkness of atheist communism had made clear to everyone that Tokes was a man of faith.

Recent communique about religious freedom on the website of Laslo Tokes (Deputy President of the European Parliament)

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