Religious Rights Defence - Gaming, Austria 16 June 2012
Accepting the invitation to lecture on the religious rights defence, I was not aware of the complexity and comprehension of the given topic. There is the human rights violation on one hand, and their protection on the other. These are probably the longest and most pertinacious fights in the history of mankind. On one hand, people required from the political power to allow them to believe in and profess a kind of transcendental value, in case of the Christians it was the God, and on the other hand, the political power had always imposed different obstacles in that relation. That struggle is as old as the whole human history itself. The struggle for political freedom may possibly be compared to it. But the political freedom is so diversified, and also its violation is so diversified, that struggle for human rights protection cannot be understood as a homogenous struggle within the history, similarly as the case of struggle for religious freedom. Why has the religious freedom been so often threatened in the history, and why has the struggle for its protection been that pertinacious? After gathering the experiences with the religious freedom defence under the Communist regime and living in a liberal-democratic regime after the fall of Communism, I came to a conclusion that the religious freedom protection is related to the arrangement of the world. The Lord created our world in a way that its optimal functioning requires each of us to practice the self denial. In other words, when the Lord invited us to take part in the creation of the world, he required kind of efforts from each man. But lot of people do not want to make such efforts, they try to find the way how to avoid them, and these efforts needed at the creation of the world can be avoided only through violating the religious freedom. For example, the Commandments number 5 and 6 prohibit to murder and to commit adultery. Generally one can easily agree with them, as everybody needs to be protected against a murder and adultery. But the Commandment number 9 asks not to desire your neighbour’s wife. This has already been a problem to many people, and for example in the present popular culture the violation of this Commandment has not been considered negative at all. But the Commandment “You shall not murder” is not that problem-free. Should it be related also to prohibition of the abortions, there are lots of people ready to doubt about it. The European Parliament even declared the right of a woman to abort to be one of the human rights. The second reason to repress the religious freedom, is the fear of the political power of the believers. Again, the Lord created the world in a way that respecting his Commandments makes people stronger. And when stronger people get into a conflict with the political power, the political power feels to be threatened more as when in a conflict with weaker people. Although in the Holy Bible you read: “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”, but often people and the Caesar do not agree what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. There are examples illustrating the power of God’s people in the period of the struggle against Communism, e.g. in Poland, where the moral support of the Pope John Paul II contributed significantly to the establishment of the Solidarity movement; in Slovakia the Underground Church dominated the fight against Communism, and the Orthodox Church in Russia is the only institution that survived from the Tsarist period until today. The period of Communism started with an exceptional self-confidence, believing it was more proficient than the religion itself and believing that Communism would prevail over the religion in a relatively short period of time. There were articles in the Communist press in Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s, 1960’s and even 1970’s claiming that the religion would disappear within about next two generations, due to the scientific evidence. Communism did not fight the religion only at the academic level. The Russian Orthodox Church records 86 000 cases of bishops, priests, monks and nuns murdered during the Communist era. In Czechoslovakia, in the 1950’s, at least 15 Catholic bishops were imprisoned. The Greek-Catholic Church was prohibited and all convents were closed down. The majority of bishops in Poland were interned even until 1956. The believers could visit their churches, but when the presence of teachers, doctors or higher clerks was identified, they lost their jobs. In Czechoslovakia parents could apply their children to take religious lessons in schools, but in case the parents belonged to the above mentioned categories, they lost their jobs. In spite of those measures the churches were full on Sundays and ten thousands, even hundreds of thousands of believers participated in traditional pilgrimages. Millions of people visited the pilgrimage to Czestochowa in Poland every year; about 200 000 used to visit the pilgrimage to Levoča in Slovakia annually. And this is the first specific feature of the fight between churches and Communism. Churches did not declare any open political resistance against Communism. There were no anti-government slogans presented at pilgrimage sites. But the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people to pilgrimage places itself, was a very clear statement that all those attending the pilgrimage were not the supporters of Communism. As the Communist regime turned everything to politics, it was the regime that made the open manifestation of religious belief its political enemy. We know – and today also the former Communists know – it was a gross politological error of Communism. The arrogance of the Communists was gradually retreating, but it finally disappeared only by the fall of Communism. The Communists had to accept that people defended their religion directly, and even physically. At the beginning of the 1950’s tens of priests were arrested, as the Communist regime considered them very dangerous. This was the time a special phenomenon occurred in villages or smaller towns, where people guarded their priest day and night. There are about 50 cases known in Slovakia, when people guarded their priest, and when the police arrived to arrest him, the bells begun to jangle, lots of people gathered and they literally protected their priest physically, using their own bodies. Some people lost their lives in this way, and many were sentenced and imprisoned. But it had always been the resistance of unarmed people towards the armed police. Any kind of armed resistance would be meaningless and it would be squashed in a violent way. On an ideological level, it was Communism that had to retreat from its positions, not the churches that were expected to retreat due to the scientific evidence. From the very beginning the Communists adopted Giordano Bruno’s statement about the eternal and infinite substance. But when the big bang theory was presented at the beginning of the 1960’s, the scientists proved that the substance is either eternal or infinite, but not infinite and eternal at the same time. The Communists could not accept the cybernetics theory, and they did not understand the issue of the environmental pollution as and ending procedure. At the beginning of the 1970’s the first samizdat publications, also of Christian character, appeared. Both in Poland and Russia it was earlier. The Underground Church started to develop its structures and the number of pilgrimage participants increased. In the Underground Church there were small groups of more active believers meeting privately in their flats, in addition to allowed services in churches. They met, prayed together and discussed religious and related topics. There were legal priests working with these groups, but also priests who were not allowed to work in the pastoration by the regime. During the day they worked as workers or clerks, and in the evenings they visited religious groups. And so gradually, although it took two decades, the Catholic Church succeeded to create an effective resistance against the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia. During the whole time of the fight with Communism it was proved efficient not to keep the names of those persons who took measures against believers, and definitely not only against the believers, as the policemen, judges, prosecutors, etc. secret, but to make them public, and so through foreign radio stations as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe they became generally known. These people did not like it when their neighbours, friends or people in their environment learned about what they actually did. Approximately in the 1970’s people started to manifest publicly their solidarity with those persecuted. When a member of the Underground Church was detected by the secret police and there was a trial at court, the believers used to come to courts to manifest their solidarity with the persecuted persons, showing it just with their presence there. Samizdat publications played an important role in the struggle with Communism. These were journals published in secret, written first only on typing machines, later using the cyclostyle and at the end using offset printing machines in the underground printing facilities. Samizdats substituted the free press that was not allowed by the Communists. Today, in the times of internet and computers, samiszdats would probably not play such a role. In Slovakia, the fight with the Communist power, particularly performed by the churchgoers, culminated in the Candle Demonstration on 25 March 1988 in Bratislava. About 10 000 citizens demonstrated in the Old Town, asking the Catholic bishops to be appointed by the Pope, for the religious freedom and civil rights. Bringing such requirements together symbolized the unity of the believers fighting for the religious rights with the liberal-civic part of the society fighting for the civil rights in general. Later, after the fall of Communism, we learned from former secret policemen that the Communist secret police strived for a long time to prevent the interconnection between the religious and civic dissents. The Candle Demonstration, as well as some of samizdat journals previously did, only showed the failure of those efforts. There was an interesting opinion we learned from former secret police members. The Communist secret police was able to understand the civic opposition, including the Charter 77, to understand its methods and take steps how to manipulate it. But the thinking of the religious people was something the Communist secret police could not understand, it was unable to predict their next steps, and therefore the secret police respected the religious opposition in a special way. It was good to get knowledge and be able to interpret the tactics of the Communists in persecuting the believers, but that did not exclude the final phase to come. It was necessary to be courageous, to take also the imprisonment into account, as nobody could predict the time for Communism to fall. But the faith in God and the appreciation of the fact to be a member of the church, strengthened people to be confident that their understanding of the world is the correct one, and the Communist picture of the world is wrong. This belief helped to bring a very important contribution in the fight with Communism. Present-day. More than 20 years have already passed after the fall of Communism and the majority of the former Communist countries became part of the Western world. We use the same tooth-paste, drive the same cars and watch the same TV programmes. But we observe differences occurring again between our ideas about the arrangement of the world and their ideas. In fact, it is natural. We are invited by the Lord to take part in continuation of the creation of the world and participating in the creation continuation still requires the self denial and refusing the forbidden fruit. And still there are lots of people not ready for the self denial and willing to eat the forbidden fruit. Today there is no danger of imprisonment because of manifesting our belief in God or our membership in a church, but there is for example a threat to lose a job. About seven years ago I defended a gynecologist working in a hospital in Slovakia, expelled from his job as he refused to perform an abortion. The European Court of Human Rights shall decide about the case of a British nurse who lost her job because she refused to take off the cross from her necklace. My American friends told me that in the States they do not sent Christmas greetings any more, but Season greetings. It reminds me of the Communist years when postcards with the pictures of the Father Frost were sent (a fictional character from a Russian fairy tale playing a similar role as Santa Claus). An abortion is more often called a human right for women and the sovereign states cannot adopt regulations obstructing the marches of homosexuals. There are ambassadors, including the US ambassador, writing open letters supporting the march of homosexuals in Slovakia repeatedly. I consider it a misuse of their diplomatic positions and therefore I signed a letter with that opinion addressed to the ambassadors last year. This year the US ambassador supported the march of homosexuals again. The fight for the religious rights defense takes place in different conditions now as it was under Communism, but there are experiences gathered in the fight with Communism that have been applied today as well. First, it is the faith in God, faith in the Ten Commandments and the will to follow the Ten Commandments. This is the essence of our conviction that our ideas about the arrangement of the world are correct, and the ideas negating our concept are not correct; of our conviction that it will be proved, sooner or later, that our concept about the arrangement of the world is correct and shall win. To name those who try to take us our image of the world away. The solidarity with those who are in an open collision with the promoters of the other world. And also the readiness to take a risk for the case if all the earthy guarantees and promoted freedoms would prove to be incorrect. In the last two thousand years the Christian concept about the arrangement of the world finally always won its recognition in the fight with different competitive models. So why should it be different now? Thank You for Your attention.
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