This week I have learned about a recent court judgement in Romania which has taken property away from the Church and given it to the state.
The history of Church property in Romania was very difficult in the 20th Century, as after the war the Communist regime nationalised religious land and buildings. Church property was eventually restored to its original owners in 1999.
I have been concerned to learn in recent weeks that the Romanian government have been apparently successful in their attempts to take back a High School in Sepsiszentgyörgy, owned by the Hungarian-speaking Reformed Church (Transylvanian Reformed Church District), who are partners of the Church of Scotland.
What is most concerning is that this action appears to be targeting a minority, as the Transylvanian Reformed Church is Hungarian-speaking, and has a different culture, ethnicity and tradition from the majority of Romanians.
There is a key article outlining the history of the case on the Reformed Church of Hungary website: http://reformatus.hu/mutat/7186/
A demonstration is taking place on Saturday 1 September at the High School. I and Alan Falconer, Convener of the Ecumenical Relations Committee, have sent this message to Bishop Dr Géza Pap of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District:
Friday 31 August 2012
Dear Dr Pap,
We are distressed and concerned to learn of the decisions of the Romanian courts with regard to the ownership of Székely Mikó Reformed High School in Sepsiszentgyörgy.
The long and troubled history of Church property ownership in your country in the Twentieth Century had, we hoped – as certainly you had hoped too – been resolved in 1999 with the restitution of property to its rightful owners.
We share the pain and fear expressed by the resolution of the Transylvannian Reformed Church District’s General Assembly, in that the rule of law, protection of minorities and the upholding of human rights appear to be in jeopardy as a result of this action.
Please convey our thoughts and prayers to our sisters and brothers during this difficult time.
We will raise this issue within the Church of Scotland and ask for our congregations to pray for reconciliation and human rights in your country.
We will send this message too to the Romanian Consul in Edinburgh, the UK Foreign Office and Members of the European Parliament representing Scotland. It is of deepest concern that such vexatious legal challenges are being brought and unjust penalties imposed, flying in the face of reason and justice, and that this is happening within the European Union.
Please keep us informed of developments,
Yours in our continued spirit of solidarity and friendship,