News from Rumania: ACTION ALERT! EXTENDED DEADLINE to June 13!
June 13 Deadline! AHF ACTION ALERT! CONTACT CONGRESS! Dear Friends of Religious Liberty and Human Rights! The Romanian government has failed to restore a large number of religious and communal properties it illegally confiscated from the Hungarian and Romanian Christian and Jewish communities after the Second World War. Representatives Andy Harris (R-MD), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and David Royce (R-OH) have prepared a letter to Secretary of State Kerry regarding this untenable situation. They have invited their colleagues to co-sign their letter. You can help! Here's how!
1) Please call your Congressman today (if you don't know who your Congressman is, please see http://house.gov/representatives/find/)
2) Identify yourself as a constituent;
3) Ask for the foreign affairs legislative assistant;
4) Speak with him/her, leave a message if he/she is not available, and ask the Representative to sign the "Harris-Kaptur letter to Secretary Kerry" on religious property restitution in Romania;
5) Leave your contact information including your address that shows you are a constituent, if you don't hear within a reasonable time, call back, follow up until you receive a "yes" or "no;" and please notify us of your success and results.
The deadline to obtain signatures is Tuesday, June 3rd!
The Dear Colleague Letter appears below:
*"Dear Colleague, (Current Signatories: Harris, Kaptur, Joyce, Smith)
Please join us in co-signing the attached letter to Secretary of State Kerry on property restitution for religious denominations in Romania.
It has been 23 years since the fall of communism and the Romanian government has still not restored over half of the 2,140 schools, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable and civic institutions it illegally confiscated from the Roman Catholic, Hungarian Reformed, Evangelical Lutheran, and Unitarian churches after 1945. The state also confiscated 1,980 Jewish communal properties. Now, on April 17, the Romanian Parliament adopted yet a newer law the government drafted without consulting the effected churches, and against their express objection. Then, in another blow to religious liberty, on April 23 the Romanian Parliament adopted a discriminatory law which deliberately omitted return of archival materials to religious denominations confiscated from them in 1974.
In 2005, the Congress adopted H.Res 191, expressing its strong view that the Romanian government “provide fair, prompt, and equitable restitution to all religious communities,”by overcoming legislative shortcomings and creating an effective implementation process. Nearly eight years have passed since our resolution. Unfortunately, the Romanian response has been a pattern of disregard, delay, obfuscation and hindrance. Of the 7,568 religious property claims submitted after 2002, only 2,400 – less than one-third – have even been decided. More recently, it began persecuting the very individuals, who, in their official capacities, are trying to serve justice and restore properties to their rightful owners. On June 27, the Romanian Supreme Court will decide the fate of three members of the Romanian Property Restitution Committee (Attila Markó, Tamás Marosán, and Silviu Clim) who have been sentenced to three years imprisonment for ruling to return the Székely Mikó Reformed High School in Sepsiszentgyörgy/Sfantu Gheorghe to the Hungarian Reformed Church, the rightful owner.
Please join us in urging the Secretary Kerry to focus the State Department’s attention on this long-standing human, minority and religious rights violation in Romania. With the looming trial date of the above-mentioned three individuals, your prompt attention is greatly appreciated."
Church Property Restitution Summary
While the majority of ethnic Romanians belong to the Orthodox Church, a significant minority belong to the Greek Catholic Church, which was forcibly dissolved by the Communist government in 1948. Members of 1.5-million strong Hungarian minority are mostly affiliated with the Roman Catholic, Hungarian Reformed, Lutheran, and Unitarian denominations. Confiscations of Jewish property by the wartime Fascist governments were also upheld by the Communist government. Hundreds of thousands of claims have been made, but the Romanian government continues to drag its feet at resolving property disputes involving the Hungarian minority. In fact, Romania is reversing lawful church property restitution, through criminal prosecution.
In its statement from July, 2012, AHF expressed its deep concern regarding the prosecution of former state secretary Attila Marko, Silviu Vlim and Tamas Marosan in connection with the restitution to the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania of the Szekely Miko Evangelical Reformed College (“MEC”), a baseless and blatant attempt by Romanian authorities to further stall and reverse the lawful restitution of church properties seized by the communists.
Restitution of property confiscated by the Communist regime in Romania is a process meant to compensate for crimes committed against national communities and their property rights, against individuals and against a value system in which the right of property is sacred. The restitution of confiscated land, forests, church-buildings and of other real-estate owned by the community is a primary goal for every religious and ethnic community in Romania. The establishment of a legal framework for this restitution has proved to be a very challenging process. The restitution process in Romania is far from complete, it is characterized by contradictions and efforts at advancing this process are fraught with obstacles on a daily basis.
The restitution of confiscated community property, including those owned by the historical Hungarian churches is indispensable for this community, in its struggle to keep its national identity. Restitution is also indispensable for this community to have its independent establishments and for its present and future viability as a community.
Selected Related Articles
7/17/2012 - AHF releases statement, "Romania: Reversing Lawful Church Property Restitution,
Through Criminal Prosecution." AHF is deeply concerned that the prosecution of former state secretary Attila Marko, Silviu Vlim and Tamas Marosan in connection with the restitution to the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania of the Szekely Miko Evangelical Reformed College (“MEC”) is a baseless and blatant attempt by the authorities to further stall and reverse the lawful restitution of church properties seized by the communists. [read more]
George W. Bush praises Basescu as a "special friend" and "special leader." "Rumania is a 'special ally' because Rumania shares the same values we do: human rights, human dignity, rule of law, transparency in government, anti-corruption." AHF knows the situation is far from Bush's rosy picture, but hopes Mr. Bush's encouraging words bring change to Rumania.
Why So Many Hungarians Across the Border?
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged. Until 1920...
The Treaty of Trianon in 1920... in the aftermath of WWI, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure. The clear winner of the land grab, was Rumania, who, established only 60 years earlier, more than doubled in size overnight.
Ethnic Distribution in the Kingdom of Hungary in 1910 (Hungarians shown in red)
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, this trend continued over the past 90 years.
[read more on the Treaty of Trianon]