Michael Jones

Key Words: Transylvania, ethic relations, romanian-hungarian conflict

Ph.D Student
Temple University
Pennsylvania, USA

Paul Mojzes and Walter Sawatsky, eds.

Religion in Eastern Europe


There are many periodicals devoted to the Eastern European religious situation that are published inside of Eastern Europe. There are also periodicals devoted to these issues that are published outside of Eastern Europe, and these sometimes provide usefully different perspectives and insights than do the indigenous periodicals. Religion in Eastern Europe is such a periodical: it is published by CAREE (Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe) at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, USA.

CAREE is an association of predominantly American scholars, ministers, and laypersons who, for one reason or another, have a great interest in Eastern Europe. Many of the members of CAREE are Eastern Europe emigrees.

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Religion in Eastern Europe is a bi-monthly publication, in 8 1/2x11 format. Its average length is around fifty pages. It contains academic articles, pertinent news items, book reviews, and occasional editorials, all written in English. Since there are other quality sources for news on Eastern Europe, the purpose of REE is to provide for its readership a source for more in-depth analytic articles on religion in Eastern Europe, written by specialists in their respective domains. Recent issues have contained articles on church history, the role of religion in the wars in the ex-Yugoslav republics, liberalism in the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church, the Glaube in der 2 Welt Institute in Switzerland, and an editorial on the role of REE as a forum on Eastern Europe.

REE is a non-partisan publication. Its contributors come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds, and seem to exercise care in avoiding inflammatory and offensive language. REE is not, on the other hand, entirely adverse to tackling controversial issues, as the second of the above-mentioned articles demonstrates.

Many of the articles in REE are of a pan-Eastern European nature: that is, they cover topics that are of a general interest to all of Eastern Europe. Some of the articles, however, focus on issues in specific countries, although even these usually include comments on how the article is relevant to the rest of Eastern Europe. One example of this type of article comes from the most recent issue of REE (volume XXIII, no. 5, October 2003): “A Strategy for Social Reconciliation in the Ethnic Conflict in Transylvania,” by Cristian G. Romocea.

Romocea’s article, which spans pages 1 through 30 of the issue, seeks a methodology for the reconciliation of ethnic conflict that addresses the theological, political, and social factors involved. This holistic approach to problems is not typical of Christian writings, but well suits the Eastern European context, where conflicts often have long histories which interweave the religious, political, and social differences of adjacent communities.

The resources that Romocea calls upon in his analysis and resolution of the problem are drawn from a wide array of Christian authors (including Romanian Orthodox, liberal Catholic, neo-orthodox Protestant, and conservative Evangelical thinkers, as well as advocates of liberation theology) and also specialists in ethics, political science, and conflict resolution. He advocates maintaining a distinction between individual and social reconciliation, and states that the latter arises out of the former. Being a Christian himself, Romocea holds that individual reconciliation is a restorative work of God brought about at least in part by the safety and sense of belonging which the individual receives through membership in a supportive community. Romocea

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asserts that individuals who have experienced individual reconciliation “could be in a better position to bring about social reconciliation” (Romocea, 3).

Romocea proposes to use the ethnic conflict in Transylvania as a case study in Eastern European social reconciliation. His discussion of the Transylvanian situation focuses on the conflict between the Romanian majority and the largest Transylvanian minority, the ethnic Hungarians. He briefly introduces the history of this conflict, but devotes more time to developments which occurred after the fall of Ceaucescu. Although he is surprisingly up front about some of his political preferences, he succeeds in remaining neutral with regard to the opposing views on the Romanian-Hungarian conflict in Transylvania. This is key to his approach to resolving this conflict: he argues that the evidence for the differing interpretations of the history of the conflict is ambiguous, and the long history of the conflict must be left behind in the search for reconciliation. More often than not, an emphasis on the history of the conflict results in stirring up new conflicts.

Romocea elaborates the roles played in reconciliation by the government of the nation involved, by civil society, and by religious institutions. Each has a distinct and important role open to it. Romocea discusses this both abstractly and in specific application to the Transylvanian situation.

Romocea concludes that, in Transylvania as in other places of ethnic conflict, religious communities need to take a more active role in researching and implementing methods of conflict resolution, and that Christian communities need to rediscover the theological and social meaning of reconciliation, which stands at the core of the Christian faith.

Romocea’s article is one example of a large number of articles published in REE that provide focused insights into localized problems while at the same time providing theoretical insights that can be applied to other instantiations of the problems. Such articles are of great value to all who are interested in Eastern Europe.

According to the editors of REE (Sawatsky, REE XXII no.3 p.15), REE is indexed in the ATLA Religious Database, the Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory, and in the reference books Central and South-Eastern Europe and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia. Since 1998 the journal has been available on-line at http://ree.georgefox.edu ,and many past articles are also available at this web address.

The subscription price for REE is $36.00 for individuals or libraries. What makes REE particularly special is that it is free to theological institutes in Eastern Europe, and is currently received by almost 200 such institutions. Members

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of CAREE also receive free subscriptions to REE (as well as the CAREE Newsletter). CAREE membership is free for Eastern European students studying in the U.S. Subscription enquiries, as well as articles and book reviews (in English) to be considered for publication, should be directed to: Religion in Eastern Europe, AMBS 3003 Benham Ave. Elkhart, IN 46517 USA or emailed to Waltersawatsky@cs.com.

JSRI • No. 6/Winter 2003