Hungarian Pastor Preaches Amid Death Threats

Saturday, June 1, 2002

his village still "ruled by Communists"

By Stefan J. Bos and Tamas S. Kiss,
Eastern Europe Correspondents,
ASSIST News Service

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (ANS) -- A Hungarian Reformed Pastor continues to preach the Gospel despite alleged death threats and opposition from Russia and Communists who he says still rule the Hungarian village of Doboz, near the Romanian border.

Pastor Barna Lajos Balogh, 51, who has lived in Doboz for seven years, told ASSIST News Service that villagers "are banned and discouraged" from attending church.

"The local municipality have always put the day to celebrate the official close of Kindergarten on Pentecost Sunday in an effort to prevent people, especially children, from coming to church on that day," he said in an interview.


Balogh suggested he also received signs that people want to kill him. "One night at 7 pm a brick flew through my window. This was only one in a series of many within a few months. My house was vandalized with the Latin inscription "Memento Mori" which means "prepare to die," he added.

The Pastor said that the pressure increased since he protested against a 1958 victory memorial, that was erected to honor the Russian soldiers after they crushed Hungary's 1956-revolution against Soviet Communism.

Balogh's widely published protests has lead to tensions with the authorities and created an international diplomatic row between Hungary and Russia. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement this month condemning the protests as well as a recently opened House of Terror museum in Budapest to honor victims of the Nazi regime and Communism, including persecuted Christians and Jews.


"The memorial in Doboz is an obelisk with a red star on top. It is not a War memorial, and it does not represents heroic deeds," stressed Balogh. However Daboz Mayor Janos Szatmari told ANS that the memorial was in remembrance to Russian soldiers who fell in the village in 1944.

"It's a peaceful little memorial and no-one is offended by it. The people and children of Doboz ride their bikes around it every day. Only one crazy priest has a problem with it," he said. But pastor Balogh stressed the local mayor has "illegally changed the written text of the documents" in Russian and Hungarian.

Balogh added that he has written proof from the national archives and witnesses who as national guards in 1956, were forced by the Communists to raise the memorial. The pastor, who strongly opposes the Atheism of the Communist era, suggested he will continue with his church activities despite the difficulties.


However he admitted the controversy has not made it easy to carry out his calling. ""The leadership and authorities of Doboz have not changed during the past 22-years and they have virtually one hundred percent control over the school, and economic life," he said.

"If you're not in the circle you are discriminated. All social securities contributions, school enrolments are controlled by the local authorities." Hungarian Government officials say that Balogh's letter of complains has been send to the Ministry of Justice and is currently under review.

However the ministry is at least 200 kilometres and a world away from Doboz, where tensions remain high. "The local police has refused to stop the atrocities against me," said the embattled pastor.