In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement saluting Bishop László Tőkés: “I am pleased to send my warmest greetings to you on this special anniversary. Two decades ago, countless Romanians united in a common cause and boldly stood for freedom and equality. In a time of great change, they helped forge a path of opportunity and hope, and began a new chapter in Romania’s history.”
On December 15, a gala evening honoring László Tőkés was held at the Opera House in Temesvár (Timisoara), Romania, part of a series of commemorative events this week. The Coalition was represented at the gala event by Zsolt Szekeres and Katica Avvakumovits, who delivered President Obama’s letter to Bishop Tőkés. President Obama’s letter and the Coalition’s own message are attached to this press release.
Twenty years ago, László Tőkés, pastor of the Hungarian Reformed church in Temesvár, stood fast while agents of the Communist regime’s Securitate (secret service) came to evict him after he refused orders to relinquish his pulpit. For years, Tőkés had been persecuted by authorities for speaking out against the abuses of the regime, particularly its campaign of forced assimilation targeting the 2 million-strong Hungarian minority. On the night of December 15, 1989, members of the church came out to witness the eviction of Rev. Tőkés, who together with his wife was already under house arrest. The little band of Hungarian worshippers was then joined by citizens of Temesvár, of all nationalities and creeds, in support of Rev. Tőkés and in courageous defiance of a regime built on fear and enforced silence. The gathering grew into a wide-scale revolt against Ceausescu, spreading rapidly throughout Romania and leading to the regime’s collapse and the execution of Ceausescu, “Europe’s Last Stalinist.”
This week’s events, including an international conference, were attended by distinguished political leaders who also played key roles in ending Communist rule in East Central Europe. Attendees included Lech Walesa, former President of Poland; Emil Constantinescu, former President of Romania; Viktor Orbán, former Prime Minister of Hungary; Markus Meckel, the penultimate foreign minister of the German Democratic Republic; and Zsolt Németh, Chairman of the Hungarian Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.
At the December 15 gala, Bishop László Tőkés was awarded Romania’s highest state honor, the “Star of Romania” (Steaua Romaniei) from President Traian Basescu. Mircea Bacala, Prefect of Temes country read aloud the presidential decree. The medal was presented by Péter Eckstein-Kovács, Advisor to the Romanian President on minority issues. President Obama’s greetings, as well as the message of László Sólyom, President of the Republic of Hungary, were also read aloud as part of the program.
Part of the gala celebration was broadcast by Hungary’s DunaTV: