Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

23 12 2013


Christmas (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning “Christ’s Mass”) is an annual commemoration of the birthof Jesus Christ and a widely observed cultural holiday, celebrated generally on December 25 by billions of people around the world. Christmas is a national holiday in many of the world’s nations, celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians.

The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian,Christian, and secular themes and origins.Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving,Christmas music and caroling, an exchange of Christmas cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes,garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions.

Central-European Religious Freedom Institute wishes you
a Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Charitable Methodist group newest target of Hungarian “church law”

13 12 2013
Pastor Gabor Ivanyi of Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship. Photo by Klubradio.

Pastor Gabor Ivanyi of Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship.
Photo by Klubradio.

By Lili Bayer/

The Ministry for Human Resources is opening an investigation of the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship (Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség), a Methodist church with a strongly tradition of charitable work, according to a letterfrom the Ministry’s department for Church, Nationalities, and Civil Relations. Citing the 2011 law on the registration of Hungarian religious establishments and 2013 government regulations, the Ministry will be turning to an unnamed expert for evaluating whether the church’s activities are primarily of a religious nature, whether the church complies with its own beliefs and rituals, and whether the church has maintained an active congregation over the past 20 years in Hungary.

The head of the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship, Gábor Iványi, replied to the latest official assault on his church by publishing an open letter on the church’s website to the Ministry for Human Resources highlighting his church’s dedication to following Jesus’ teachings, service to the community, history as a persecuted and banned church during the Communist era, and its legal status since the 1980s.

The Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship was established in the early 1980s after breaking off from the Hungarian Methodist Church. Today, the Fellowship is among the largest charitable organizations in Hungary, running soup kitchens, homeless shelters, several retirement homes, and over a dozen schools. (The picture above was taken from the church’s Facebook page.)

The Fidesz government’s efforts to limit the number of registered churches in Hungary began in 2011, when the Hungarian parliament approved legislation defining only fourteen churches and religious communities as eligible to be registered as religious organizations. As a result, groups such as the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship, Hungarian Methodist Church, and the Hungarian Islamic Community were not eligible for the same legal rights and benefits as officially-recognized churches.

In February 2013, Hungary’s Constitutional Court annulled sections of the 2011 law, arguing that lawmakers failed to provide justification for their assessment of application for registration and that allowing parliament to decide which organization can be considered churches leaves room for politically-motivated denial of church status. Following the Court’s decision, however, the government passed an amendment officially allowing parliament to use its discretion, based on a number of loose criteria, to determine the status on Hungarian churches.


ROMANIA: State TV airs Christmas song about burning Jews, celebrating Holocaust

12 12 2013

Song includes lyric: “This is what the Jew is good for, to make Jew smoke through the chimney on the street.”

Parliament Palace, constructed at the time of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, is reputed to be the world's second largest building after the Pentagon in the United States

Parliament Palace, constructed at the time of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, is reputed to be the world’s second largest building after the Pentagon in the United States

THE JERUSALEM POST –  A Romanian public broadcaster distanced itself from a Christmas carol celebrating the Holocaust that aired on the new channel.

TVR3 Verde, a television channel for rural communities, presented the carol on December 5 during its maiden transmission.

Sung by the Dor Transilvan ensemble, it featured the lyrics: “The Jews, damn Jews, Holy God would not leave the Jew alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the Jew is good for, to make smoke through the chimney on the street.”

In a statement Tuesday, TVR3 said it did not select the song but only broadcast those that were chosen and compiled by the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture, which belongs to the eastern county of Cluj.

TVR considers the selection “an uninspired choice and therefore notified the Cluj County Council of this,” the broadcaster’s statement read.

MCA Romania, a local watchdog on anti-Semitism, has written to Romanian President Traian Basecu and to Prime Minister Victor Viorel Ponta, to complain about the broadcast.

“We are shocked to see that the Romanian Public Television Channel 3 broadcast an anti-Semitic Christmas song,” Maximillian Marco Katz and Marius Draghici of MCA Romania wrote in the letter. “It is outrageous that none in the audience took a stance against the anti-Semitic Christian song that incites to burn the Jews.”

They added it was “absolutely unacceptable that TVR 3 tried to deny responsibility” by claiming it was the responsibility of Cluj County.


Central-European Religious Freedom Institute wrote to Romanian Ambassador to Hungary, protesting against antisemitism on national television and expressing concern for the state of rights and freedoms of national and religious minorities in Romania. We received a detailed answer from the Embassy in less than 24 hours. Below is the answer in full:


Dear Mr. Jura Nanuk,

With regard to your email of protest towards the anti-Semitic carol aired on a public Television in Romania, allow me to convey to you the following:

The Romanian society and the public authorities are both concerned and  outraged about this incident, therefore we have been witnessing strong and quick reactions of public condemnation. The Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Titus Corlatean, issued a public message in which he condemned any form of anti-Semitic manifestation (please find below the text of the press release, the English version). At the same time, the National Audiovisual Council of Romania decided to apply a financial sanction of 50 000 RON (aprox. 12 500 Euro) for the TV posts TVR 3 and TVR Cluj, based on the infringement of the Law on audiovisual services which defends and promotes the cultural and religious diversity and prohibits the airing of any kind of anti-Semitic and xenophobic manifestations.

The Romanian Orthodox Patriarchy also issued a public statement through which it affirmed that it disapproves any manifestation instigating to anti-Semitism, religious or ethnical hate.

The Director of the County Center for the Conservation and the Promotion of Traditional Culture has publicly apologized to the Jewish community in Romania for the singing of this carol.

The body in charge with monitoring and sanctioning all kinds of forms of discrimination – the National Council for fighting against Discrimination announced that the case is under its attention, the meeting for the debate being scheduled for the 16 December.

I am convinced that in the coming days, more and more statements to publicly condemn this incident will be made, both at the level of government representatives, political leaders and of the civil society. I will keep you informed on further measures that will be taken on this case, as well as to public reactions.

Reaffirming, once again, the strong belief that no form of anti-Semitic manifestation should be accepted, please receive, dear Mr. Nanuk, my greetings.

Victor Micula,



Statement by Minister Titus Corlăţean

I consider it utterly unacceptable that in the 21st century anti-Semitism should further be manifest in various forms. I have taken note with concern and indignation of the program aired by TVR3 station on 6 December 2013.

I firmly condemn any anti-Semitic manifestations, particularly if they are propagated, be it even unwillingly, possibly due to ignorance, through a press institution of public interest.

Romania has undertaken, for over a decade now, a coherent and conscious effort at reconciliation with the past and recovering our own history. I believe that the actions undertaken in this time – many of them geared at educational programs – did produce an effect and contributed to educating the younger generations in the spirit of tolerance and truth. Incidents like that at TVR3 show that we should not slow down on our efforts but, on the contrary, we must make our messages reach all segments of our society.

Moreover, I would like to underscore that Romania has a good legislative framework with respect to fighting anti-Semitism, the denial of the Holocaust and promotion of personalities guilty of war crimes.

That is why I publicly express my legitimate expectation that the relevant institutions, the National Audiovisual Council (CNA), the National Council against Discrimination (CNCD), the General Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the specialized committees of Parliament will take the necessary measures and investigate, punish and prevent such entirely blamable situations.


UNITED KINGDOM: Scientology is a religion, rules Supreme Court

11 12 2013

A woman who wants to marry in a Church of Scientology chapel has won a battle in the UK’s highest court


By Alice Philipson / THE TELEGRAPH

o-LOUISA-HODKIN-570Scientology is a religion, the UK’s highest court has ruled, after a woman won a battle to marry in a Church of Scientology chapel.

Scientologist Louisa Hodkin took her fight to the Supreme Court after a High Court judge ruled last year that services run by Scientologists were not “acts of worship”.

But five Supreme Court justices ruled in her favour on Wednesday, announcing that the Scientology church was a “place of meeting for religious worship”.

Miss Hodkin wants to marry fiancé Alessandro Calcioli in a Church of Scientology chapel in central London.

She took legal action after the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages refused to register the London Church Chapel for the solemnisation of marriages under the 1855 Places of Worship Registration Act – because it was not a place for “religious worship”.

Related post: Scientology case has judges debating the meaning of religion

DECEMBER 10, 2013: A global wave of prayer to end world hunger

8 12 2013

Central-European Religious Freedom Institute invites all religious communities and individuals of good will, believers and atheists alike, to join this initiative.


‘Prayer Wave’ Led By Pope Francis To End Hunger Begins On December 10, Human Rights Day

On Dec. 10th, 2013, Pope Francis is inviting the world to join him in a global wave of prayer to end world hunger that will begin at noon in Tonga, progressing around the world until reaching American Samoa 24 hours and 164 countries later.

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Vatican-based federation of charities Caritas Internationalis, believes that world hunger can be eliminated by 2025. In a video message he said, “There is enough food to feed the planet. We believe that with your help and with the help of governments and the UN, we can end hunger by 2025.”

A Dec. 10 event on the U.S. Capitol Lawn at noon has been organized by the Circle of Protection, a coalition of over 65 leaders of Christian faith groups. Eric Sapp of theAmerican Values Network, which is working with the Circle of Protection, told The Huffington Post that the event is expected to draw a decent Congressional turnout. The timing of the call to end hunger is appropriate, as many are now feeling the pinch of the food stamps cuts that passed in September.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told the Huffington Post, “For people to go hungry in a land of plenty is unconscionable. Pope Francis’ focus on feeding the poorest and most vulnerable embodies the mission of the Catholic Church and is an inspiration to us all. I join members of the Catholic community for supporting his prayer wave to eliminate hunger and will keep fighting until our prayers are answered.”

The wave of prayer has been organized by the 164 member organizations of Caritas Internationalis, with Pope Francis’ blessing. It will take place on Human Rights Day,Dec. 10, to support the anti-hunger campaign, “One Human Family, Food For All.” 

The effort is in line with the social and economic justice that Pope Francis has been calling for throughout his papacy. The pope is a fierce advocate for the poor and marginalized, in both his personal conduct and his public rhetoric.

His apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” made waves for its straightforward attack on inequality of all kinds, as he wrote, “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

This isn’t the first time he’s called the world to unite in prayer, as on September 7, 2013, he led a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria.



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