BUDAPEST, Hungary (NNI) – Significant changes in the leadership of the Communist Party in Hungary have given a new impetus to the current demand for political and economic reforms in the nation – and these changes have been fueled by a growing Christian revival.
The new Deputy Prime Minister, Imre Poszgay, is leading the call for the elimination of restrictions of church activity. At the end of 1987, the Hungarian government announced that independent associations, both secular and religious, would be allowed to operate legally without having to submit their constitutions to the government for approval.
Nearly every segment of the population then began calling for political demands and trying to force the Party to speed up its reform program. Then, quite unexpectedly, the once docile Catholic bishops launched their own offensive in early 1988 – demanding “giant steps” toward reform. The bishops called for a host of changes to be made in state policies regarding the church. This resulted in an announcement by Prime Minister Grosz that new concessions would be made. Hungary’s new laws on religious policy are expected to be ratified this year.
Perhaps the most significant concessions in the current context include new laws which allow Protestant social programs to operate among drop-outs, delinquent youth, drug addicts, alcoholics, the elderly, and handicapped children. One church has also been given the freedom to start a telephone counseling service in Budapest which is giving Christians an opportunity to prove their capacity to tackle current social problems within the context of communism.
The Christian gospel is also taking on a much more prominent role in Hungary as the doors are opened to visiting evangelical leaders. Dr. Luis Palau, who holds evangelistic rallies all over the world, addressed a crowd of 12,000 at a youth rally in Budapest in early April. Hungarian television covered the event and extended the ministry to the entire nation. “The dream of a full-blown, unrestricted evangelistic meeting … became a reality before my eyes,” said Gary Cox of EuroEvangelism.
“The Soviet bloc is one of the most exciting areas in the world in which to present the gospel today,” said Palau. “There is an openness – ‘glasnost’ – especially among the young people.” There were approximately 1,200 youth who responded to Palau’s call to repentance at the April gathering.