The Pastor Who Toppled A Communist Dictator

This is the story of a remarkable Christian leader, Lazlo Tokes, from Romania who sparked the protests that overthrew the hated Communist dictatorship of Nikali Ceauşescu and his wife in 1989 and went on to become the vice president of the European Parliament from 2010 to 2012 .

In the space of weeks during that same year, the all-powerful Romanian president for life, Ceausescu, plunged from being the ruthless leader of a despotic and unflinching atheistic regime to facing a firing squad. How did a powerless assistant pastor become the spark for such an amazing sea-change in power? The answer is willpower.

Like his father, Tokes was an outspoken critic of the Ceausescu regime. Many times in the preceding years he had written articles and organised activities on behalf of the people, particularly the Hungarian ethnic minority, who were suffering under severe and doctrinaire government policies.

In March 1989 Tokes was ordered to stop preaching and move from the city of Timisoara to an isolated village. He refused to go and was supported for the next few months by his parish. In July he gave an interview on Hungarian TV suggesting people do not have to support the Romanian government. This was viewed all along the Romanian/Hungarian border and electrified the people. Tokes was attacked by government supported goons soon after.

As the day of his eviction drew near, his ethnic Hungarian parish began a 24 hour vigil outside his flat that stopped anyone entering. This was joined by a few hundreds of others, including Romanians and the militia could not gain access on December 15th to evict him. On December 16th water cannons were turned on the crowd at 5.00pm. By 7.00pm thousands of people, including the university students, came in and blocked access to vehicles in the surrounding streets. The started with hymns and quickly moved on to patriotic songs that had been banned by the Communist Party since 1947. The protest had become a revolt.

On Sunday the 17th Police fired on the swelling protest and many were killed. This galvanised the industrial workers in Timisoara who all joined the revolt on the 18th. The whole city was now at a standstill. By the 20th other cities were joining with the movement. On the 21st Ceausescu tried to give a speech in Bucharest but was booed and heckled by the crowd. The next day he and his wife tried to flee the country but they were captured by the military. Their court-marshal was held on December 25th and they were executed by firing squad the same day.

Under a thousand people died all up in the protests and the party he led disappeared into the dustbin of history. Tokes went on to become bishop of the Hungarian Reformed church and eventually a member of the European parliament, rising to the position of Vice-President in 2010.

The only sad part to this story is that, with fame came a life of sexual infidelity and his wife Edit, sick of living with this double standard, filed for divorce in 2011.

God bless

Kevin

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