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Student Writing Contest Winnners 

Ministry recently conducted its third Ministerial Student Writing Contest. We are pleased to announce the winners.

We thank all of the students worldwide who submitted a manu­script for the Ministerial Student Writing Contest. We appreciate your participation.

Grand Prize

Daniel Xisto, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States

First Prize

Philip Michael Forness, Princeton, New Jersey, United States

Second Prize

Vikram Panchal, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States

Second Prize

Warren Suya Simatele, Silang, Cavite, Philippines

Third Prize

Andrew Abbott, Walla Walla, Washington, United States

Third Prize

Peter Barnabas Pamula, Silang, Cavite, Philippines

Third Prize

Reed Richardi, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States

Third Prize

Patrick Etoughé Anani, Silang, Cavite, Philippines

Third Prize

Jonny Moor, College Place, Washington, United States

Reintroduced law jeopardizes status of some churches in Hungary

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States—The saga of securing official church status in Hungary continues, despite what religious liberty advocates called encouraging news late last year when the constitutional court struck down the country’s controversial law of churches.

Prior to that ruling, more than 300 minority faiths—among them the Seventh-day Adventist Church— were set to lose official legal status in Hungary on January 1, after which they would undergo a reapplication process.

With the new year, those churches are facing a similar situ­ation. The country’s constitutional court overturned the law of churches purely on technical grounds; and on December 30, Hungary’s majority conservative party “easily” reintro­duced and passed essentially the same law, effective January 1, said Dwayne Leslie, the Adventist world church’s legislative representative in Washington, D.C.

Hungary’s parliament claims the law is necessary to weed out businesses or individuals pos­ing as churches just to gain the accompanying rights and privileges. Furthermore, the majority govern­ment maintains that the law does not infringe on religious liberty. It does not “forbid” worship according to any faith tradition, Hungary’s minister of state for government communication, Zoltan Kovacs, wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. Kovacs said the law merely outlines how churches can gain official recognition “if they show themselves to be popular enough.” One condition requires a church to prove a decades-long history in the country and count more than 1,000 members.

The Hungarian government is “making efforts to explain to the international community that this is not a human rights issue,” said Ganoune Diop, the Adventist world church’s representative to the United Nations. “The situation in Hungary is very complex, and there are several issues at play, from economic to judicial and legisla­tive—and in front of these issues, religion. The government sees the de-registration of churches as a response, in part, to the tremendous challenges the country is facing. We must voice our concerns over the de-registration of churches, but whatever we say about the situa­tion in Hungary must be prudent and sensitive to the context and sovereignty of Hungary,” Diop said.

Many members of the interna­tional religious liberty community maintain that, regardless of the country’s internal struggles, the law poses undue challenges for legitimate religious organizations. “Now we not only have an objec­tive standard of what constitutes a church, but we also need a two-thirds vote of Parliament just to become an official religion, and we think that’s problematic,” Leslie said.

Currently, 82 of the some 300 minority religions deregistered under the latest law have reapplied for official status, among them the Seventh-day Adventist Church, denomination officials in Hungary said.

Religious liberty analysts said provisions of the new law indicate that those churches that have already applied for status will not experience a gap in official recogni­tion. They will maintain previous recognition while a decision regard­ing their ultimate status is pending in parliament. Members of parlia­ment have indicated that they will arrive at a decision by the end of February. Church leaders in Hungary report that “communication with the government” suggests that the Seventh-day Adventist Church will regain official church status.

“One positive improvement in the new law is that it does not prohibit denominations to use the term ‘church,’ even if they are not accepted by Parliament,” said Tamás Ócsai, president of the church’s Hungarian Union Conference. Churches to which parliament does not grant official recognition will receive a “religious association” status, he said. [Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN]

(Editor’s Note : Update to follow in the Dateline section of the May 2012 issue.)

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March 2012

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