On 24 January, Christian churches in Hungary and the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ) participated in the 10th Christian-Jewish Prayer Meeting to show solidarity and commitment between the Christian and Jewish communities in the country.
Commemorating the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January) the major Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Church, the Lutheran Church, the Baptist Church, the Pentecostal Church, the Methodist Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, participated in the event which was initiated by the Christian-Jewish Society and organised in a downtown Budapest Catholic Church, whose priest saved several thousand Jews during the Second World War. This occasion is an important annual event which reminds Christians that the atrocities of the Holocaust must not be repeated, and it gives assurance of love and peace to Hungarian Jews whose parents and relatives perished during the World War II.
During the meeting, Bible readings and prayers were offered as well as two sermons presented by a Christian priest and a Jewish rabbi. Cardinal Péter Erdő stressed that God’s word connects different Christian denominations and connects Christians to Jews. The holy Jewish Bible is revered by all as a vessel of inspiration and it helps in understanding the New Testament better. He reminded all that God’s Word is a call to action, as it can be seen in the Ten Commandments or in the Beatitudes of Jesus. The reverence for God’s word must call all to act against the growing anti-Semitism and the growing violence against Christians.
Róbert Frölich, the chief rabbi, reminded the audience of the approaching Jewish festival, the day of Trees’ New Year. Without trees there would be no fruit or oxygen, thus there would be no life. Humans have offspring, and fruits just like the trees and human roots dig deep into religion, culture, and faith, which are responsible to pass life on to the next generation. He referred to a command in the 5th book of Moses not to destroy trees, and similarly no human culture or faith should be destroyed, because these sustain human lives. Just like all trees are different, so we humans are also different. However, we are all created in the image of God. This image is worthy of respect and love whoever that person may be.
Although the Adventist church is not a major denomination in Hungary and the Hungarian Union Conference (HUC) is not a member of the Ecumenical Council of Hungarian Churches nor a participant in the Ecumenical Week of Prayer, it is invited every year to participate in the Christian-Jewish Prayer Meeting. This invitation is an acknowledgment of the positive role Adventists played in saving Jews during the Second Word War. The HUC is proud of the heroic leadership of its war-time union president and his wife, László and Jolán Michnay, who organised a clandestine operation to save more than 60 Jews, hiding most of them in the Adventist Central Church in Budapest. (See: A “Righteous Gentile” in World War II Hungary)
Pastor Michnay also lifted up his voice against anti-Semitism during public evangelistic meetings in 1943. He was the first ever Hungarian to receive the Yad Vashem prize “Righteous Among the Nations”, which later on his wife received as well.
Zoltán Kubinyi, another pastor and conscientious objector, must be mentioned who as the commanding officer of a Jewish labour company saved more than 140 of his subordinates. (Watch his story here. )
The HUC regrets that based on unreliable news-sources and, possibly, unintentional mistranslation of certain articles, this event has been misrepresented. The participation of the Union President at this public annual event is mandated by the Union Board. The importance of Adventist participation in the event can be best understood through the words of László Balázs, a Union Board member, who comes from an Orthodox Jewish family and whose mother was a concentration camp survivor, “The fact that Christian churches are present on an event like this helps, to a degree, drive away the fear. This may sound strange, but I can say, with a little exaggeration, that what is important in the Christian-Jewish Prayer Meeting is not what is said. The main message is the meeting itself and to be present is the message to the Jewish people… In my opinion, this event is not about ecumenism but about showing love. It is about showing our fellow Jewish neighbours they can count on us that we won’t let them get into a vulnerable position again.”
The Hungarian Union will continue to witness about the love of Jesus, our Saviour, by making a stance against hatred and anti-Semitism both in word and action and by participating in appropriate events where the friendship with fellow Jews can be publicly displayed.
The Leadership of the Hungarian Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church