Hungarian pastor on hunger strike protesting against repressive law on churches

30 11 2011

A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change. Most hunger strikers will take liquids but not solid food. A hunger strike cannot be effective if the fact that it is being undertaken is not publicized so as to be known by the people who are to be impressed, concerned or embarrassed by it.

In the first 3 days, the body is still using energy from glucose. After that, the liver starts processing body fat, in a process called ketosis. After 3 weeks the body enters a “starvation mode”. At this point the body “mines” the muscles and vital organs for energy, and loss of bone marrow becomes life-threatening.

Jeremiás Izsák-Bács, a leading pastor of the Hungarian Anabaptist Mission, Hungarian Mennonite Church, has started a hunger strike in Strasbourg on the 10th of November aimed at the new church law which becomes effective on the 1st of January, 2012. The new law deprives 250 churches of their currently recognized religious status with a stroke of a pen. This law forces them to be terminated or to re-register as citizens’ associations. Please help pastor Izsák-Bács by spreading the news about his action through blogs, Facebook and media if possible.

Pastor Izsák-Bács needs financial support for medical supervision of his bodily function and hotel room in Starsbourgh. Hungarian edition of Voice of America published in their online article data on bank account where financial support for pastor Izsák-Bács can be sent:

Bank name: BUDAPEST BANK Rt.
Bank address: 1138 Budapest, Váci út 188. (EU – Hungary)
Account owner: Evangéliumi Szolnoki Gyülekezet Egyház
Address: 5000 Szolnok, TVM. Ltp. Művelődési Ház, (EU – Hungary)
Account number: 10104569 – 72957800 – 00000002
IBAN : HU37 1010 4569 7295 7800 0000 0002

For more information on pastor Izsák-Bács please contact pastor Péter  Soós,  mobil : +36-30-663-0880, E-mail: [email protected]


November 23, 2011, Strasbourg

My name is Jeremiás Izsák-Bács. I am pastor and representative of the Hungarian Mennonite Church. I have been on a hunger strike since November 10 to call the attention to the serious violation of the law inHungary.  

The Hungarian Parliament has adopted a series of laws that restricted the freedom of press and speech, made the electoral law one-sided, deprived citizens of social rights and drastically reduced the employees’ rights.  All of these actions infringe our basic human rights in an unacceptable and unconstitutional manner. 

This unspeakable legislation has also come to the church law. This irregularly forced new church law left untouched the legal status of only 14 churches; the right of every other legally registered church was taken away; starting in January, these groups will only be allowed to operate as societies rather than churches.  This is a fundamental and drastic loss of rights.

I protest against the deprivation of civil rights, the unacceptable restrictions, and I fight for Hungary to return to the legal and democratic norms agreed upon by the European Union!

Jeremiás Izsák-Bács

Vatican council sends Deepavali greetings to Hindus

29 11 2011

Vatican City – The Vatican Council for Interreligious Dialogue has offered its “cordial greetings” to Hindus celebrating the feast of Deepavali. The council proposed religious freedom as the answer to religiously motivated conflicts.

“May God, the source of all light, illumine your hearts, homes and communities for a life of peace and prosperity,” said the Oct. 20 message, signed by the council president Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and the council secretary Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata.

The three-day Deepavali celebrations begin this year on Oct. 26. They mark the beginning of a new year and are a time for Hindus to take part in family reconciliation and adoration of the divine.

The Council for Inter-religious Dialogue traditionally shares a reflection on the occasion. This year it chose the subject of religious freedom because it is at center stage in many places. The subject calls attention to “those members of our human family exposed to bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious affiliation.”

Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, they said.

“When it is jeopardized or denied, all other human rights are endangered. Religious freedom necessarily includes immunity from coercion by any individual, group, community or institution,” they explained.

The message comes after several years of tensions and anti-Christian violence in some parts of India. Hindu radicals have participated in deadly attacks that have driven Christians out of their homes and destroyed their churches.

The Vatican council said that the human freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion or belief can take place in public or private, alone or in a community.

The right to religious freedom also involves a “serious obligation” from civil authorities, individuals and groups to respect the freedom of others. It also includes the freedom to change one’s own religion.

The council’s letter observed that respect for religious freedom allows believers to be “more enthusiastic” about cooperating with their fellow citizens to build “a just and human social order.” Its denial stifles and frustrates “authentic and lasting peace.”

The council noted areas like the defense of life and the dignity of the family, the education of children, honesty in daily life and the preservation of natural resources as areas in which believers can make a specific contribution to the common good.

“Let us strive, then, to join hands in promoting religious freedom as our shared responsibility, by asking the leaders of nations never to disregard the religious dimension of the human person,” the council said.

“We cordially wish you a joyful celebration of Deepavali.”

Source: Catholic News Agency

Hungary Pressured To Revoke Controversial Church Law

28 11 2011

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife


BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s center-right government is under international pressure to revoke a new church law that critics say resembles the Communist-era, BosNewsLife established Sunday, August 14.

The influential Washington-based human rights group Freedom House has added its voice against the legislation, which restricts the officially recognized churches in Hungary to just over a dozen religious communities.

“It is unconscionable that any democratic country, particularly one that so recently freed itself from a Communist system in which all religious freedom was repressed, could pass such discriminatory legislation,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House.

Under last month’s adopted ‘Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Community’ only 14 of the 358 faith groups in Hungary will be granted formal recognition to operate as churches in this country of some 10 million people.

The law, which passed with 254 votes in favor and 43 against, recognizes Hungary’s predominant Reformed, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox denominations, as well as some Jewish groups.


Hundreds of other groups, including several evangelical churches, automatically lose their “registered” status as of January 1, 2012. While police raids are not expected yet, they will no longer receive key financial support and tax advantages from the state for their social and charitable work.

At least tens of thousands of deeply inpoverished Hungarians receiving church support, including many Gypsies, or Roma, will be impacted by the move, critics say.

Freedom House said it was concerned that groups have to meet seven different criteria and a two-thirds parliamentary majority must approve any registration application.

To become legally recognized, religious groups must obtain 1000 citizen signatures and have a presence in Hungary for 20 years or more.


Among those that will have to go through a difficult process to regain registered status is Hungary’s Church of God, which traces its roots to 1907 but was stripped of recognition under the new law.

“I don’t think anyone will come and tell us we can’t worship God,” added László Debreceni, a leader of the church in a published interview. “But it will raise serious issues that some churches are now on the approved list and others not.”

Hungary’s Methodist Church and a number of Islamic groups are among others being targeted by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has faced Western criticism for his perceived autocratic and nationalistic style.

The government has denied wrongdoing, saying the law is aimed at abuse of state resources at a time of a deep economic crisis.

However, “This kind of legislation that favors certain religions over others is typical of what one finds in countries such as Russia and Malaysia and is incompatible with liberal democracies,” countered Schriefer.


“Freedom House calls on the government of Hungary to adhere to the protections enshrined in its constitution, which includes the freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice, and get out of the business of evaluating which religions it deems worthy,” she said.

Freedom House earlier urged United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to convey American concerns about the law.

Even Hungary’s former Communists-turned-Socialists, who are now in opposition, have called the law adoption date of July 12 “a day of mourning in church history”.

The Socialists described the vote as “unworthy of the churches or the freedoms of religion and conscience.”


Prominent members of Hungary’s democratic opposition in the 1970s and 80s agree. They have written to human rights commissioners of the European Union and the Council of Europe asking them to intervene.

Over a dozen signatories to the letter requested EU Commissioner Viviane Reding and CoE Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg “to take resolute action in defense of freedom of religion and other fundamental liberties that are presently in great danger” in Hungary.

“Never before has a Member State of the EU so blatantly dared to go against the principles of freedom of beliefs, equality before the law, and separation of church from state. These are all established fundamental rights in our common Europe,” they also wrote.

Those signing the letter included former Budapest mayor and dissident Gábor Demszky as well as prominent writers and thinkers Miklós Haraszti, Gabor Gábor Ivány, János Kenedi, György Konrád, Ferenc Kőszeg,  Magyar Bálint,  Imre Mécs and László Rajk.

The church law is the latest in laws that have concerned the international community. Hungary’s six-month EU presidency this year was overshadowed by criticism over its media law and constitution that rights activists say limits press freedom and government interference in previously independent institutions such as the Constitutional Court.



Source: BosNewsLife

US Congress condemns France for repression of religious freedom

21 11 2011

The U.S. Congress reacted to the publication of a bulletin from the french Ministry of Justice. This bulletin, which has already been the object of polemical discussions in recent days, “instructs prosecutors and judges of courts of appeal to consider certain religious practices, such as fasting, as means of psychological subjection”.

In a letter to Prime Minister Francois Fillon dated October 28, co-signed by the presidents of House International Religious Freedom Caucus, the members of U.S. Congress, express their worries: “We are worried because there is no chance of real justice for these movements (religious minority) and this appears as a direct intervention of the executive power to influence and direct the decisions of judges in criminal cases.”

Congressmen also tackle the About Picard law. They recall that in 2002 the Council of Europe demanded that this worrying legislation may be “reconsidered”, which France never did.

Finally, they expressly demand that the financing by the state of associations as the FECRIS “attacking and defaming individuals and communities on the basis of their beliefs and practices, often in coordination with Miviludes” be stopped.

(For the full text of the letter in pdf format, please click here)

Source: FOREF Europe-Forum for Religious Freedom Europe


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