It is the 16th of December 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1989.
To get to today's event, we will go back five years before 1984. The U.S. Congressional Senate Committee on Foreign Relations met in session to discuss protecting and promoting religious rights in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. They invited a pastor and Hungarian ex-patriot, the Reverend John Butosi, to deliver remarks on the state of religious freedom in Romania. Despite assurances from the official government agencies in Poland, Butosi claimed that the rights of religious minorities were routinely restricted. The "Department of Cults" was especially keen on keeping the Hungarian minorities in line.
Quick idea: I'm sure that the "department of cults" sounds just fine in the original language. Perhaps we want to work on that one.
Butosi claimed that cultural genocide was taking place as religious writings were being confiscated, churches were destroyed, and congregations disappeared. And all of this while the Ceausescu regime claimed religious freedom was flourishing. To counter this, Butosi gave the Senate the example of one pastor, Lazlo Tokes. The son of a theology professor, the young Tokes became a pastor in Transylvania and complained to the authorities about a lack of religious literature and Bibles. This would cause him to be a target of harassment.
Two years after Butosi's report before the Senate, Tokes became something of a local hero. He had recently become a minister at a larger church under the protection of an older minister and ally. But when that pastor died in 1989, the Ministry of Religious Affairs attempted to force Tokes out, too. The government took away his ration book. This was necessary for buying food or gasoline. People who tried to bring him food secretly were caught, and the electricity to the parish and parsonage was cut off.
Speaking later to a reporter, Tokes reflected on his rebellion. He said, "The education I had in my family was to resist Satan and stand up to injustice…Our church has an ancient revolutionary tradition: We think to protest is the very essence of the word Protestant."
On the 14th of December in 1989, the police came to remove Tokes, but the locals were not having it. A protest in the town square became a full-blown demonstration. On the 15th, after conflicting reports from the town's mayor, the Save Lazlo campaign became a full-blown anti-communist resistance. The spark became a flame, and on this, the 16th of December in 1989, the Romanian Revolution, kicked off by a protesting Protestant, began.
By Christmas, it was over, Ceausescu was dead, and the Soviets lost another Eastern Europe satellite. Speaking about the events after having been reinstated to his old church in the following, Tokes said, "I believe politics is everywhere, in all aspects of life as well as in the teachings of Christ. It's nothing but caring about the public." The religious persecution that led a pastor to have to defend his flock became a symbol of freedom for the country and the church. We remember Laszlo Tokes, Romania's people, and their righteous revolution, which began on this, the 16th of December in 1989.
The reading for today is a poem from Alan Jones. "May Christmas Come" was written in 2001 between the horrors of 9/11 and Christmas.
May Christmas Come
by Alan Jones
The rough beast slouching
still waits to come to term.
Christmas comes and goes
as we expect.
This year in New York, Jerusalem
the Innocents are slaughtered
according to Herod's schedule.
His rage, unchecked,
still does its work.
Yet this year
things could be different.
The 11th of September adds urgency
making this the time of choosing.
The choice is ours
to miss the point or
see Mary and her child
in every mother and her baby,
and adore, absorbing
the rage and terror
and with a loving heart
rebuild the world,
making peace our gift.
May Christmas come.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 16th of December 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who wonders if, in the Ministry of Cults, they get to carry wands or possibly do magic. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.