ONE MAN'S COURAGE
Volume 1 - 1990
The dismissal and arrest of a Reformed pastor led to widespread demonstrations and a whirlwind uprising that swept a communist dictatorship into the dustbin of history.
Rev. Laszlo Tokes, a 37-year-old Hungarian Reformed pastor in the Transylvanian city of Timisoara was courageous in exposing the communist persecution at a time when such courage was rare in Romania.
Not only did he speak out against the atrocities of the communists but he exposed the compromise and collaboration of the leaders of the Hungarian Reformed Church. Tokes spoke up for the nearly 2-million Hungarians in Romania — long mistreated and abused by the communist government.
Last August Tokes spoke on Hungarian television against the socialist scheme to destroy 8 000 Romanian villages and resettle their residents in 500 “Agro-industrial centres” (high-rise apartment complexes). The authorities then denied him a ration book, thereby preventing his family from purchasing any food or fuel.
Church members and relatives who tried to bring his family some provisions were confronted and stopped by communist officials. Tokes and his pregnant wife were beaten and stabbed by four Securitate (secret police) thugs in November. All the windows in his church and apartment were broken (this, of course, was during winter). But still he maintained his principled stand and refused to compromise.
Instead of receiving help from the church authorities, Tokes was accused by Bishop Papp of “violating the laws of both church and state.” Bishop Papp then obtained a court order for the eviction of Tokes from his home and parish.
But the congregation formed a human chain around the church building to pro tect their pastor. Thousands of others also risked their lives by joining this demonstration.
The protests were abruptly drowned out by the crackle of automatic weapons, the thud of artillery and rocket fire and the roaring of armoured vehicles. Many hundreds of unarmed civilians were massacred, among them many children, by the dreaded Securitate. Rev. Tokes and his wife were both arrested and beaten and led off into Securitate custody.
This was not the first time such brutalities had happened in Rumania. But this time the people’s response was history-making.
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