“Europe’s debate culture and decision-making techniques should be reformed to enable every citizen to feel that they are an equal member of the European Union (EU), to which 16th century reformers provide an excellent example”, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog said in a telephone statement to Hungarian news agency MTI on Thursday.

Following the opening ceremony of the Hungarian Days in Wittenberg, organised to mark the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, Mr. Balog spoke about the fact that the debate culture based on reciprocity and equality propagated by the Reformation was also required today to “enable us to be wholehearted members of the European Union”.

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“It was during the Reformation that this debate culture, which was previously only enjoyed by a small elite, became more widespread and popular”, Mr. Balog pointed out. “It was also the Reformation that brought about the church practice according to which aristocrats and serfs alike sitting next to each other in the presbytery had one vote each, and accordingly they had to debate issues before coming to a decision”, he added.

The Minister spoke about the fact the over a thousand Hungarian students attended Wittenberg University during the course of a few decades in the 16th century, and they were the only national group that had their own association and flag. “It was a truly fine migration within Europe from East to West, and then back to the East”. In Wittenberg, the Hungarian students learned the most important spiritual concepts, then took back home everything they had learned in the city.

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Today it seems as if “we in Hungary are insisting more strongly” on “what kept Europe alive and enriched and reformed it, than our Western European brothers”, the Minister added. He recalled that a few years ago in Sepsziszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania), a statue was erected to commemorate John Calvin, who has been practically forgotten in the West, a statue of Luther will be unveiled in Budapest this year, and retranslations of his works are also being continuously published. All this “indicates just how important this heritage is to us”, Mr. Balog said.

The Minster also said that on Thursday afternoon he had met with Prime Minster of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt Reiner Haseloff, who according to Mr. Balog would like the Hungarian Government and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to visit Wittenberg during Reformation Year.

DownloadPhoto: Gyula Bartos/Ministry of Human Capacities

The Hungarian Days in Wittenberg closes on Sunday. As part of the programme, commemorative plaques to the first Hungarian reformer, Mátyás Bíró of Déva, who studied at Wittenberg University, humanist János Sylvester, who published the first full New Testament in Hungarian, and Upper Hungarian reformer Lénárt Stöckel, will be unveiled around the city. Other events include a theology conference, a concert by Franz Liszt award winning organist László Fassang and a presentation by Lutheran schools, in addition to sigh-seeing tours, a folk music concert and a beer exhibition. On Saturday at a gala reception hosted by the Hungarian state, speeches will be given by President-Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary Péter Gáncs, Prime Minster of Saxony-Anhalt Reiner Haseloff, Minister of Justice László Trócsányi and Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany Heinrich Bedform-Strom. The closing event of the programme will by a dual language mass held on Sunday, at which the preacher will be Lutheran Bishop Tamás Fabiny.

During the 500th Commemorative Year of the Reformation, people in Hungary and around the world remember the fact that on 31 October 1517 German monk and theologian Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses demanding church reforms to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. This day marks the beginning of the Reformation.