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UUA President visits Transylvania Unitarians

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray addressing the gathering at the Inauguration of the House of Religious Freedom.  With Rev. Rev. Gyerő Dávid

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray addressing the gathering at the Inauguration of the House of Religious Freedom, with Rev. Gyerő Dávid

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray at the Inauguration of the House of Religious Freedom with Hungarian Unitarian Church leaders: Rev. Dávid Gyerő, Bishop Ferenc Bálint Benczédi, Rev. József Kászoni-Kövendi and Rev. István Kovács

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray at the July 7, 2018 Inauguration of the House of Religious Freedom in Kolozsvár with Rev. Dávid Gyerő, Bishop Ferenc Bálint Benczédi, Rev József Kászoni-Kövendi, and Rev. István Kovács.

Earlier this month, UUA President, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, visited Transylvania to participate in the inauguration of the Hungarian Unitarian Church’s new "House of Religious Freedom" and related events commemorating the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda.  

During the visit Rev. Frederick-Gray reaffirmed the UUA’s commitment to "confront and resist efforts to preference, subvert or manipulate religious movements" in the US and the world; to "welcome the stranger, regardless of identity or religious outlook, even as powerful leaders speak of building walls and excluding the people fleeing war, trauma and persecution"; and to partner "with the Hungarian Unitarian Church, in a spirit of hope and love, even in times of disagreement or misunderstanding."

Speaking during the inauguration ceremony, Rev. Frederick-Gray explained the challenges of Religious Freedom in the current era:

In my country, the United States of America, Religious Freedom has become a complicated matter. Religious Freedom – as here in 1568 – originally served as a protection for minority religious views. 450 years ago, that was an immense advancement for human culture, and a beacon for the world.

But more recently and frequently in the U.S., Religious Freedom has been misused – as an excuse for already powerful and privileged religious movements to exclude, oppress, and circumvent the civil and human rights of people with identities that have been marginalized – because, some claim, these rights interfere with the religious convictions of the powerful.  In the US, Religious Freedom Acts and related court cases do not advance freedom or liberty, but instead protect the religiously comfortable and privileged from progressive social change. And this experience is not so uncommon in many countries around the world

And so in the 21st century, 450 years after the Proclamation of Religious Tolerance here in Transylvania, this new institution is more important than ever.  May this Center be a place where the modern complexities of religious freedom are considered and addressed. May it be a place where people learn to appreciate, and even love, differences in religious outlook and practice.  May it be a place that brings people together – even people who have been uncomfortable being together, even people who have significant disagreements with each other, even people for whom reconciliation is needed.

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray preaching during Sunday worship at First Unitarian Church in Kolozsvár.

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray preaching during Sunday worship at the First Unitarian Church in Kolozsvár.

Preaching during the Sunday service at the First Unitarian Church in Kolozsvar, Rev. Frederick-Gray expressed the importance of Siding with Love during difficult times, drawing on similarities between the Edict of Torda and foundational commitments of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  She shared a hope that Unitarians and UUs around the world will be in faithful solidarity with each other, explaining that "this is no time to go it alone," and that "this is no time for a casual faith."

Alongside the formal events, Rev. Frederick-Gray visited a variety of historic Unitarian sites, including the Unitarian church in Meszko - the Alabaster Village - where Rev. Balazs Ferenc served during the 1920s and the museum where the restored painting of the Diet of Torda is on public display. Rev. Frederick-Gray also appreciated the many opportunities to build closer relationships with Unitarian leaders in Transylvania, including Bishop Ferenc Balint Benczedi.

Visit Torda450.org to find out more about events and theological reflection opportunities taking place during this anniversary year.

(Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray visiting the Torda Museum to view the restored painting The Diet of Torda by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch, 1895)

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray visiting the Torda Museum to view the restored painting "The Diet of Torda" by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch, 1895