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Laszlo Tokes receives Truman-Reagan Freedom Award

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation awards the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to Hungarian human rights activist Bishop Laszlo Tokes.6/16/2009 - The Victims of Communism (VOC) Memorial Foundation awards the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to Hungarian human rights activist Bishop Laszlo Tokes. Bishop Tokes, an ethnic Hungarian, played an impAHF members and guests commemorate the 1956 Hungarian Revolution at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, DCortant role in the Romanian Revolution of 1989 that toppled Romania's communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu.

VOC also presented the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to two other leaders viewed as champions of democracy: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and to former congressman and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp , whose son James Kemp accepted the award for his father, who died in May.

“These remarkable men demonstrated a commitment to worldwide freedom,” said Dr. Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, in a statement on Tuesday. “Their opposition to oppression has helped to free captive nations and save countless lives.”“These remarkable men demonstrated a commitment to worldwide freedom,” said Dr. Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, in a statement on Tuesday. “Their opposition to oppression has helped to free captive nations and save countless lives.”

The Victims of Communism (VOC) Memorial Foundation awards the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to Hungarian human rights activist Bishop Laszlo Tokes.László Tőkés (born April 1, 1952, in Kolozsvár, now Cluj after Rumanian annexation) is bishop of the Hungarian Reformed Church District of Piatra Craiului (Királyhágómellék), Transylvania, Romania. A former honorary president of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, he is a founding member and president of the Hungarian National Council of Transylvania.

An effort to transfer him from his post as an assistant pastor in Temesvár (now Timişoara) and to evict him from his church flat helped trigger the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Nicolae Ceauşescu and spelled the end of the communist era in Romania. Read more about him on Wikipedia.

"I am thankful to God and proud on those who were supporting us and
this award means recompensation for those sufferings we had to be subject of in those times and even afterwards in period of transition from communism to democracy," Tokes said.

In answering a reporter's question about the Soviet memorial that is still standing in from of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, he said, "I believe that the memorial is still symbolically representing that communism is not gone yet, it still lives in a different form. As Constantinesque, former President of Romania said "we got rid of communism, but we can not get rid of it fully." It is still there in the secret service, it is there in the "skin changed not real democrats," the former communist groups, the former communist agents, the newly rich nomenclature members, it is in our fears, in our reactions, in our lies and also it is there... for example in 1959 the communists closed the Kolozsvar Bolyai University of Science and 50 years later we still could not reorganize the Transylvanian university. Then, three teachers of the Bolyai university committed suicide, Csendes Zoltan, Szabedi Laszlo, Molnar Miklos. For their death, there is still no justice and for many millions of people there is still no justice from the mean post communist democracy."

Among the previous recipients of the Freedom Medal are Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Elena Bonner, Pope John Paul II, Joseph Lieberman, Jesse Helms, Henry M. Jackson, Lane Kirkland and Michael Novak.

His full acceptance speech is below:

The memory of that June day two years ago is still vivid in my mind when we dedicated the Victims of Communism Memorial near Capitol hill with the participation of President George W. Bush.

Now, on the Twentieth Anniversary of the gruesome and violent repression of the student protests at Tiananmen Square, the imposing memorial by Thomas Marsh reminds us simultaneously of the demolished statue representing the Goddess of Democracy in Beijing, and its inspiration, the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The Memorial erected by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is a worthy memento and testament to the tens of millions of innocent victims, heroes and martyrs who shed their blood under communist totalitarianism. Through remembrance, and by the symbolic force of Liberty, it compels us to face past crimes against humanity. At the same time, it urges us to continue the fight, undeterred, against tyranny, and for the liberation of captive peoples.

In his June 12, 2007 dedication speech, Representative Tom Lantos also remembered the 1956 Hungarian Revolution using the fitting expression, „the 1956 Revolution was not crushed, its victory was only delayed.”.

Twenty years after the outbreak of the Romanian Revolution in Timisoara and the downfall of the infamous Ceausescu regime, it is painful to observe that the final victory of the freedom fighters over communism has not yet arrived. Former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu declared that inhuman and ungodly communism „is unable to return, however, it cannot really leave either.” In the former Soviet Empire, and in the former satellite states – the post-communist societies of East Central Europe – communism still lingers on through its onetime representatives and inherited legacy, exerting a pernicious influence.

In other words, in the countries of our region a bloodless struggle against communism has been ongoing for 20 years, a virtual Third World War. This is the heavy price of our peaceful transition to democracy. As President Ronald Reagan noted, „the Evil Empire” will never surrender voluntarily! The criminal elements and the privileged of the former dictatorship retained their power by transferring it into the economic sphere, and later converting it back to political power. This is the reason that justice has not been granted to the victims of communism and their descendants to this day. However, without justice and equity, there can be neither genuine freedom, nor lasting peace and stability.

In front of the US Embassy in Budapest the Memorial to the occupying Soviet “heroes” still soils the cityscape two decades after the fall of communism... In 2006, on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the post-communist Hungarian government unleashed brutal measures of retaliation against the population of Budapest peacefully commemorating the events of a half-century ago.

Similar events and destabilizing acts characterize the contradictory post-communist era in Romania. To this day, the inheritors of the Ceausescu-style national-communist rule refuse justice to the oppressed and victimized minorities, among them the Transylvanian Hungarian community. Although the Romanian government’s Euro-conformist „politics of window dressing” has achieved the verbal condemnation of communism (as demonstrated in the Tismaneanu Report), it still firmly repudiates the compensation of victims. In the words of Marius Oprea, President of the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes in Romania, „Romanian legislation and justice continues to reject applying the same standards to measure the crimes of communism and Nazi atrocities.”

Europe, along with the civilized West lying on the other side of the former Iron Curtain, and even the ecumenical fellowship of Churches, continue to delay taking a stand in the matter of the communist crimes against humanity. It took twenty years — until April of this year — for the European Parliament to finally make the first significant step in this direction.

In light of the foregoing, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, President Lee Edwards and the American legislative body — the “Congress of the Free World” — deserve sincere appreciation and gratitude for your work. As you honor me, let me also honor your principled stand against all totalitarian regimes, the protection you afford to captive peoples, and the support extended to us, subjects of former communist countries, in the struggle to win our freedom, all in the spirit of the two remarkable men of character inscribed on this award.

May the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, and the Global Virtual Museum on the Internet commemorating the victims of communism which is to be launched this afternoon, serve as true recognition and moral encouragement to all those, in China, Tibet, North Korea, Cuba and the world over, to continue, in the name of God, their unyielding fight for justice and liberty. - László Tőkés

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AHF is proud to Support VOC. AHF issued this statement as part of the VOC Gala Brochure. The text reads:

"The American Hungarian Federation honors all Victims of Communism and those who have given the ultimate Sacrifice for Freedom.

Hungary's first experience with Communism followed the chaos at the end of World War I when a brutal but short-lived "dictatorship of the proletariat" seized power between March and August 1919. Communism would later be imposed on Hungary by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, but not before Hungarians rejected the Communist Party in the 1945 elections when the Smallholders won an absolute majority of the votes despite the presence of the Soviet army.

In 1956 the entire nation rose up and, defying impossible odds, revolted against communist and Soviet tyranny. Although harsh reprisals and suffering followed the crushing of the Revolution, the sacrifice of Hungarians in 1956 helped lay the groundwork for the eventual collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe. There were other victims...

Hungarians living in successor states neighboring Hungary lived not only as an oppressed people, but also as a minority subjected to all forms of discrimination and forcible assimilation. Despite the great strides toward freedom and democracy, the region's spiritual, moral and economic decay in the wake of decades of Communism imposed by Moscow, is still evident and cannot be ignored. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation ensures that we not forget the suffering and the lessons of a terrible period in the history of mankind.

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The American Hungarian Federation (AHF), founded in 1906 in Cleveland, Ohio, is the oldest and largest Hungarian American national umbrella organization in the United States. AHF represents the interests of its member organizations and a broad cross-section of the Hungarian-American community. Among its purposes is to promote democratic values, monitor human and minority rights, and support strong relations between the people of Hungary and the United States."

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