Cluj (Romanian) or Kolosvar (Hungarian)? Day 3 Romania

I have been fighting for this religion since I was twenty-three: inviting, explaining, delegating, elevator-speeching, weeding the grounds, teaching children, holding panels, showing movies, conducting vesper services, conducting interviews, and much more. How riveting it is to inhabit our religious heritage! To discover, in the flesh this noble, persecuted faith initiated in Transylvanian, which somehow flowered, among other nations, such as the United States. Kolosvar lighted on me like a garland from Gabriel. On the train I re-read the history of Francis David, as his religious journey evolved from a Catholic priest, to Lutheran bishop, Calvinist bishop, to finally a Unitarian minister and bishop. According to the legend, he climbed up on a rock, and his sermon converted the entire town to Unitarianism.

He preached that:
• God is one.
• That the expression of our faith is in our works.
• That Jesus was a man, the communion a remembrance.

He converted the King of Transylvania, who proclaimed the Edict of Toleration (1568) that allowed for religious diversity, fifty years after Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the door of a Catholic Cathedral.

Today, Romania is a country with ethnic tensions. Our guide Levente said Hungarian Unitarians, and Hungarians in general still face discrimination. Although the government is democratic, there is a push toward redistricting the country. The effect, according to the female minister I met at the district headquarters, would be a disaster for the Unitarians. In districts where Hungarians make up 20% of the population, the district has bilingual services. If the redistricting takes place, Hungarians will lose their political voice. Already they face active discrimination in hiring practices. And although they are allowed to practice their religion, the state religion is Orthodox Catholic.

Not long ago, Ceausescu tried to eliminate the Hungarian minority by threating to raze thousands of villages and replace them with large Soviet style farms. Nearly thirty years after the revolution, the Hungarians in Romania, mostly Transylvania, are still at odds with the Romanians.

Division encompasses the history and memory of the nation. Romanians have their history, and the Hungarians have theirs concerning the same events, even the founding of the nation or who settled here first is up for debate, the stuff of nightmares. This was evident when we stopped in Torda to see a famous painting of the debate for the Edict of Torda, where Francis David argued for religious toleration. Our Hungarian guide and Unitarian minister, Levente Lasar, got into a edgy debate with the Romanian docent about the facts/events surrounding the moment of the painting. Each disputed the other’s details of the events.

It reminds me of the division between the Sunni and the Shite Muslims, a point of history, who was the true descendent of Muhammad, his cousin or his companion?
One can see revisionist history at work against the Hungarian minority. At a cemetery, for instance, in a chained off plot where two famous Unitarians were buried, was a new grave for a Romanian. Levente questioned, “Why was he there?” Also, at a Catholic church, a plaque proclaiming the spot of the Edict of Toleration, as he noted, was partially obscured by an out-of-place statue that was moved there. On the other hand, I am not sure if these are real slights or imagined ones.

Again, the feeling occurs that these are frustratingly, unresolvable conflicts. I suggested to the Romanian docent with my left hand that the Romanians had their history and with my right that the Hungarians had theirs. I put one hand on top of the other to suggest that the truth was between the two. “No,” he said. Levente had already left the room. My simplistic view is a limited Western one, and yet, if only it was manifest in the people, Egy ez isten (God is one), or for a humanist, like me, all people are one.

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