The freedom of conscience was recognised on a Hungarian territory as early as the 16th century while Europe “burned in the religious impatience of rival teachings”, Hungarian President János Áder said at a celebratory event marking the 500th anniversary of the start of Reformation in Wittenberg on Tuesday.
Áder, who was the sole foreign speaker at the event that was also attended by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Angela Markel and Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, said that the Principality of Transylvania was the first territory in the world to recognise religious freedom and equality.
“Barely more than 50 years after the historic events in Wittenberg, in 1568, the Diet of Transylvania passed a law in the city of Torda [now Turda in Romania] declaring that all people and communities have a right to choose their religious denominations, priests and churches,” Áder said.
This was how it became natural in Transylvania and all of Hungary to have villages where churches of up to two or three different denominations would coexist peacefully instead of them having a single state or provincial religion, Áder said.
He said that when Hungarians look back at the past 500 years, they can easily list the “gifts” of the Reformation, which the president said included the honesty of Protestantism, the right to challenge views, the search for truth through debate and the freedom of thought. He said the Reformation had also given its followers a more personal religion and had led to the spread of teaching in the mother tongue. It also strengthened its followers’ commitment to the nation and helped Germans and Hungarians learn to express their national identities, Áder added.
The president noted that more than 1,000 students from Hungary studied at the University of Wittenberg over the course of the 16th century and all leading representatives of the Hungarian Reformation had made visits to the city.
Featured image: MTI