Volume 1 - 1990
The most disgraceful aspect of Romania’s recent history is the subservience of many of the church leaders. It was not just that they were guilty of silence during over 40 years of persecution. Rather, it was the enthusiastic way many religious leaders sang Ceausescu’s praises and publicly supported communist policies.
Last August religious leaders published an extravagant telegram of praise for the Marxist dictatorship. Celebrating the 45th anniversary of communism in Romania, they declared that Ceausescu had taken the Romanian people to “the highest level of civilization.” The dictator was glorified as the “most popular son of our nation,” and “the greatest hero” in history. The church leaders praised the mass murderer’s “supreme wisdom” and his “unique” achievements for peace and justice.
The telegram was signed by Reformed Bishop Papp, Orthodox Patriarch Antonien, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community Moses Rosen, and Muslim leaders.
Romanian Christians complained to me of the treachery of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), World Council of Churches (WCC), and World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). “They seek to make collaborators out of the church.” “They sympathise with the communist persecutors — not with the persecuted Christians.” “They betray the uncompromising believers and collaborate with our persecutors!”
From early in the 1960’s, testimonies and reports of persecution and atrocities in Romania were well documented and widely published in the West. Yet despite the personal testimonies of Richard Wurmbrand and other tortured believers, the WARC, WCC, LWF and BWA remained silent. The Queen of England conterred an honorary knighthood upon Ceausescu in 1978, the USA conferred “most favoured nation” status upon Socialist Romania for 14 years, and leaders like Billy Graham and George Bush were entertained as guests of Ceausescu — giving public thanks and praise to the dictator.
In 1978, the Hungarian Conference of the Lutheran Church of America criticized the Lutheran World Federation because it had condemned South Africa, yet had said nothing about the human rights violations in Romania.
While Christians were imprisoned, churches demolished, ministers tortured, and hundreds of thousands continued to flee Romania, the churches in the West were silent. Even when Ceausescu began to demolish 8 000 villages (including hundreds of churches) the Western churches had nothing to say. Even when most of the international community were exposing and denouncing the Socialist “systemetization” scheme that required millions of people’s homes to be demolished, the WCC, LWF, WARC and BWA refused to criticise the communists. It’s a sad day when one can learn more from Time magazine about persecution of the church than one’s own denomination’s magazine.
At the WCC’s Central Committee session in Hanover, in 1988, Hungarian Bishop Toth proposed discussion on the reign of terror in Romania — especially on the German and Hungarian minorities in the country. But the discussion was abruptly ended after an objection from Rumanian Orthodox leader, Antonien.
At the WCC’s Central Committee meeting in Moscow, July 1989, the General Secretary, Emilio Castro, vetoed and suppressed a belated declaration condemning Ceausescu’s human rights violations.
“You are doomed, you shepherds. You take care of yourselves, but never tend the sheep.
You drink the milk, wear clothes made from the wool, and kill and eat the finest sheep.
But you never tend the sheep. You have not taken care of the weak ones, healed
those that are sick, bandaged those that are hurt, brought back those that wandered
off or looked for those that were lost. Instead, you treated them cruelly. Because
the sheep had no shepherd, they were scattered, and wild animals killed and ate
them. So my sheep wandered over the high hills and the mountains. They were
scattered over the face of the earth, and no one looked for them or tried to find
them.” Ezekiel 34:2-6
In the midst of the popular uprising, Lutheran Bishop Albert Klein openly repented of his guilt of collaborating with the communists in a December 22 Church service. He expressed remorse at not having spoken out earlier.
After Ceausescu’s fall and capture, his faithful followers suffered the consequences: Bishop Papp tried to flee the country and suffered a heart attack and the reformed Bishop of Cluj, Gyula Nazy, resigned.
But while governments and organisations from all over the world recognised the new interim government and celebrated (perhaps hypocritically for some) the overthrow of, tyranny in Romania, a deafening silence emanated from the WCC. The World Council of Churches maintained its silence over Romania, having no apparent interest in either aiding or encouraging the victims of communism.
Christians in the West now have ample reason to take a critical look at ourselves. Did we trust Ceausescu’s faithful bishops too much? Did we ignore the voice of the martyrs? Were we too quick to discount those who sought to call attention to the vic ious persecution in Romania? How can we continue to trust the World Council Churches and the spineless bureaucrats inhabiting the LWF, BWA and WARC?
“The officials are like wolves tearing apart the animals they have killed. They commit murder in order to get rich. The prophets have hidden these sins like men covering a wall with whitewash. They see false visions and make false predictions. They claim to speak the word of the Sovereign Lord, but I, the Lord, have not spoken to them. The wealthy cheat and rob. They ill-treat the poor and take advantage of foreigners. I looked for someone who could build a wall, who could stand in the places where the walls have crumbled and defend the land when my anger is about to destroy it, but I could find no one. So I will turn my anger loose on them, and like a fire I will destroy them for what they have done.” Ezekiel 22:27-31
However, Romania’s recent history not only illustrates the untrustworthiness of church leaders — much more than that it proves the faithfulness of God. For in the midst of treachery, betrayal and persecution, the suffering Christians continued to study God’s Word, witness to their faith, enjoy fellowship and celebrate in worship. Whether on the communal farms, in labour camps, in food lines or in prison cells, the believers testify that God sustained and blessed them, “adding to their number daily such as were being saved.” Anyone attending Romania’s overflowing church services will experience the rich faith and contagious joy of God’s people who have come through the tribulation victoriously.
“Our brothers won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their
testimony and they were willing to give up their lives and die.” Revelation 12:11