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Czech Forum Probes Legacy of Jan Hus

Czech Republic-2015-10-01-Czech Forum Probes Legacy of Jan Hus

Prague, Czech Republic—An international conference on the legacy of Jan Hus was held 600 years after the Czech church reformer was burned at the stake.

On October 1, 2015, the Czech branch of UPF, in cooperation with the Faculty of Law of Charles University in Prague, held the conference titled "The Importance of Jan Hus on the Way to Freedom of Conscience and the Rights of Religious Minorities."

Guests from other nations also appeared in the second panel of the conference, which took place in the framework of the project The National and Cultural Identity.

In the introduction, Dr. Juraj Lajda, secretary general of UPF in the Czech Republic, reminded the audience that the aim of the conference was to highlight the personality of Jan Hus, his life and work in the context of the liberation of the human conscience and seeking of religious freedom and its boundaries.Jan Hus, therefore, stands at the beginning of this path.The baton has been taken over by many other runners on this track, including Martin Luther, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Jan Hus was burned at the stake in 1415.This action sparked an outrage in Hus’s native region of Bohemia (Complaint Matters Sheet of the Czech and Moravian nobility from September 2, 1415) and released the Hussite movement as an inadequate response to the circumstances.Dr. Lajda stressed that the Hussite revolution had not been planned by Jan Hus and was not part of his efforts at reforming the Church.

As the second pillar of the government alongside the secular power, the Church was in a state of decline and had diverged from the truth of Christ's teachings, Hus said.

In the 1990s, Pope John Paul II asked publicly for forgiveness because of Jan Hus’ burning.But the fact remains that Jan Hus wasn’t rehabilitated and wasn’t accepted back into the bosom of the Catholic Church.

In the first panel of the conference, representatives of three Protestant churches each gave a talk: the Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren.

Radim Pačmár, M.A., Slovak and PhD student at the Slovak Evangelical Theological Faculty, stressed that Jan Hus’s tradition has been revered for many centuries in Slovakia, especially in Evangelical circles.The Slovak Lutherans have considered Jan Hus to be a preparer of the Reformation that was carried out a hundred years later by Martin Luther.

Hus did not create a sophisticated theological system, but he had a love of truth and faith.He encouraged people to go back to the springs of faith.No printing press existed at that time; therefore, his ideas couldn’t be disseminated so quickly.According to the historian Bodický, Hus was an exemplary priest.Slovak Protestants have sung Hus's songs.

Professor Zdeněk Kučera, doctor honoris causa, theologian of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, dealt with the question of freedom of conscience in understanding Hus as a theologian.If we have religious motivation, we may be willing even to lay down our lives, he said.Martyrdom belongs to religion.Jan Hus did prove his truth to guarantee through his own life.The path paved by Hus was bitter and hard-trodden by many saints and “heretics.”

Rev. Dr. Josef Hromádka dwelled on an inquiry of Hus's legacy remaining in the present. The truth requires courage and an open heart, he said.People should follow the truth—the truth should not be manipulated by people, he said.In history, however, the criterion of the good changed so that the measure of all the values and things became the human. Our conscience is not only a product of chemical reactions and processes, he said.Dr. Hromádka mentioned Hus's appeal to Christ, when he had no other choice how to defend his truth.

The second panel was opened by Kateřina Děkanovská, M.A., PhD, with her speech on "Freedom of Conscience and the Legacy of Hus and Luther." As the prefatory question she asked whether theology is a timeless or time-dependent work. It is difficult to remove Jan Hus or Martin Luther from their era, she said.

Today freedom of conscience and religious freedom get into an open dispute in many situations because of the secularization and privatization of the European spirituality. For Jan Hus, freedom of conscience with reference to freedom of humans in Christ was an absolute value. As much as law, political or social customs and establishments contradicted the teachings of Jesus Christ and freedom in him, Hus demanded their removal and redress of conditions. Unlike Hus, the theology of Martin Luther entered into a different time and situation, so it encountered real political support and didn’t receive a widely accepted stigma of heresy. The particular German states are, in principle, arranged by his thesis – cuius regio, eius religio.

The second panel of the conference also included guests from other nations. Dr. Aaron Rhodes, president of the NGO Forum for Religious Freedom Europe (FOREF), talked about Jan Hus from the perspective of human rights.Human rights are a secular concept, which emerged as a product of the Enlightenment.It is popularly said today that human rights are something we have inherited from the various religious traditions.Most of the world's religions had led people to understand the value and dignity of human beings, i.e., what needs to be protected by human rights.However, religions did not provide any political or legal mechanism that would put human rights into reality.

In traditional Islam, Dr. Rhodes said, no concept of human rights exists.Islamic law ordered the monarch to treat his people fairly and compassionately, but it has no means to restrict the power of the ruler or to enable the people to require their ruler to respect human rights and liberties.

Similarly, no concept of human rights was applied in the ancient Jewish kingdoms.

Jan Hus exhorted medieval Christianity to return to its commitment to freedom and equality and to the roots of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Afterward, the executive director of FOREF, Peter Zoehrer, pointed out specific examples of human rights violations in particular countries.In many countries, even in the schools the students are being taught biased viewpoints about religious groups other than traditional religions.Among such nations, he mentioned Austria, where some organizations that are supported by the state campaign against so-called sects, even if they have no conclusive evidence.

Doc. Dr. iur. Harald Christian Scheu, Mag. phil., PhD., opened the third, final panel of the conference with his contribution on “The Legal Status of Religious Minorities.” He stressed the importance of the freedom of conscience that dwells in each of us. It is neither religion nor atheism but a kind of conscience dictating to us. But how can we recognize that our conscience is true? The conscience may become a hostage to political correctness. Josef Beran, a Czech cardinal of the Catholic Church, also alluded to freedom of conscience.

The closing contribution was read by Dr. Radim Petráš on “So-called Consent of Kutná Hora in 1485 as the First Solution to the Legal Status of Religious Minorities in History?” The minority problem arose during the Reformation. Minorities often respond to specific problems, and since the Hussite wars in Bohemia, the situation couldn’t be stabilized. The only exception was brought by the reign of George of Poděbrady, when Calixtines (Utraquists) and Catholics lived in peace. In 1471, the Utraquists promoted Vladislav to be the Czech king, even though he was a Catholic. The Consent of Kutná Hora featured a sample of rules for dealing with religious conflicts.

Well-founded contributions were heard by more than 30 listeners. A lively debate showed that the given topic aroused a considerable interest among the audience.

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