The nations of Eastern Europe, after living in the shadow of Soviet domination for years, are now beginning to experience some of the same openness that the people of the USSR are finding under Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost policies. And this new freedom is also being paralleled by unprecedented spiritual revival in these Eastern bloc countries.
Christian workers in Eastern Europe believe that 1989 will be a significant year for the spreading of the gospel in the region, according to the information service of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. The optimistic prediction is based on the emergence of new ministries and the increase in political openness.
According to Peter Kuzmic of the Biblijsko Teolski Institute in Yugoslavia, one of Eastern Europe’s largest evangelical schools, Romania has become “the Korea of Europe” in terms of its spirituality. “Literally hundreds of thousands have come to the Lord [in Romania] in recent years,” Kuzmic told Christianity Today, adding that the church’s growth has taken place against a backdrop of poverty.
The World Association for Christian Communication says that efforts are now underway to reach Muslims in Yugoslavia and to establish a ministry in Albania – which is one of the most repressive communist regimes in the world. The Albanian government claims to have wiped out religion within its borders, but Bible smuggling and secret church meetings continue.
The political situation in many of the Eastern bloc countries is now in what appears to be uncontrollable transition. Seventy-five thousand marchers snaked through the streets of Budapest, Hungary, in mid-March of this year shouting “Democracy!” It was the first officially-sanctioned street demonstration since political reform measures allowed for such peaceful protest. Meanwhile, in Czechoslovakia, similar demonstrations have occurred to protest the Soviet military presence in the country. In Poland, the Jaruzelski government and the Solidarity-led opposition agreed to hold elections for a second chamber of parliament which will include non-communist candidates. Jaruzelski stated: “Significant progress is being made to construct parliamentary democracy in Poland.”
Newsweek reporter Christopher Ogden, commenting on the winds of change blowing across the region, wrote, “Whole segments of the East bloc, once firmly under the thumb of Soviet orthodoxy, are launched in headlong pursuit of a new political and economic order … Not since Stalin slammed down the Iron Curtain four decades ago has Europe witnessed such ferment east of the Elbe as that unleased by Gorbachev’s campaign to reshape socialist politics and economics.”