Secular Hungary

Secular Hungary

For Whom the Bell Does Not Toll

Christian democrat politicians are upset with the main churches: secretary of state Mr Zoltán Kovács (who was until mid-June responsible for managing the good name of Hungary abroad) had asked the churches to chime their bells on 4 June to remember the tragedy of Trianon*. The catholic, the Lutheran and the reformed churches declined to do so, insisting that their bells are to serve not political but spiritual aims. Mr Zoltán Felföldy, a church member and mayor of the town Lakitelek, and Mr László Varga, pastor of the reformed church were upset and wrote open letters to their religious leaders.

Of course we should be happy that the churches insist on their independence and don’t want to let themselves become an instrument of politics. But we should not forget that the same churches were not so keen on insisting on keeping church and state divided when the state’s regulations pushed children into schools and elderly people into homes run by churches, when they forced employees and school children’s parents to abide by church rules (because no other jobs/schools are available), when it came to reinforcing church privileges in the new laws on churches and education, and when it came to distributing state money…

* In the Treaty of Trianon (signed on 4 June 1920) Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory, and with it, many inhabitants who identified as Hungarian. Several factors played a role in this process. After loosing World War I, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, where since 1867 Hungary was almost equal to Austria (while of course the state was a monarchy far from being democratic) fell apart, and the winning parties had no intention to re-establish and strengthen the monarchy. The idea of nation-state (i.e. 1 state=1 nation=1 language) had taken over during the early 19th century. From the beginning of the 19th century,  the elites of national minorities (actually, there were minorities only, as no one nation accounted for 50% of the population, not even Hungarians in the Hungarian part of the monarchy) asked for autonomy (including the Hungarians, who – while asking for more rights for themselves within the monarchy – had had not been willing to agree to the other minorities in the Hungarian part the rights they claimed for themselves). With the fall of the empire, the national minorities took their chance to establish their own states.


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