Why Transylvania?

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Stories | Comments Off on Why Transylvania?

Many people who donated to Unitarian Kaláka during our recently completed pilot project have no connection to Unitarian Universalism. That’s the beauty of crowdfunding: you can reach out to all kinds of people who may decide to support your effort for very different reasons – out of simple friendship, for example.

map-transylvaniaSome of those friends are apt to ask: “Why Transylvania?”

The answer goes back to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation when Transylvanian King Sigismund and his court preacher Francis David (Dávid Ferenc) began a movement that has endured through the ages. Dávid, a former Calvinist who became a Unitarian (or Nontrinitarian), delivered a persuasive plea for religious tolerance at the Diet of Torda in 1568. Although King Sigismund’s rule was short-lived and Dávid was later martyred for the cause, the idea of religious freedom took hold.

Unitarian churches were established throughout the countryside…and they remain today. Hence our connection and partnership with these communities.

Hungarian flag

Buried for 50 years during the Communist era, this flag with its ancient Hungarian coat of arms hangs inside a village church today.

At the time of King Sigismund up until World War I, Transylvania was part of Hungary. Today, it is part of Romania. Through two World Wars and the Communist era, the Hungarian ethnic minority in Transylvania suffered greatly. Expressions of ethnic identity were prohibited, including the Hungarian language. I know of one village that buried its flag for 50 years. Today the flag hangs proudly on the wall inside the Unitarian church.

Unitarian villages continue to face discrimination and neglect in the current Romanian political climate. They need our help.

That said, I came across another answer to “Why Transylvania?” – shorter and more to the point – when reading a new book by Fred Howard. In the preface to Transforming Faith: Stories of Change from a Lifelong Spiritual Seeker, Fred, who is both a physician and a Unitarian minister, talks about a pilgrimage he made to Transylvania.

“My encounter with the people there, who were such kindred spirits, opened me up in so many ways. These people had little in the way of material possessions but had such a deep appreciation of family and community. One of my fellow pilgrims said it well, ‘These people are so poor, but they are so rich.’”

Supporting “kindred spirits” who need our help is as good a reason as any for “Why Transylvania?” Thank you Fred.

Transforming Faith: Stories of Change from a Lifelong Spiritual Seeker is available through Amazon.com and is a worthy read.