Transylvania is a geographic region of Romania east of Hungary, approximately the size of the state of Indiana. It is now inhabited by Romanians, Hungarians, Roma (Gypsies), Germans, and smaller ethnic groups. Most of the Jews who once lived there were killed in the Holocaust or immigrated to Israel after World War II. It was once the province of Dacia under the Roman Empire, until the Romans withdrew from the region in the 3rd Century, B.C.
Unitarian History in Transylvania
Unitarianism traces its religious roots back nearly 450 years to 16th Century Transylvania. There, the theologian Francis David (who in true UU fashion was first a Catholic, then a Calvinist before becoming a Unitarian) converted the King and much of the population to a radical theology -- a theology that espoused the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus, and that held up reason and tolerance as the pillars of its faith. Today, despite centuries of persecution, there are still some 50,000 Unitarians living in the Transylvania region of Romania.
Our Unitarian brothers and sisters in Transylvania have suffered much over the past four centuries, but they have kept their faith under the most trying circumstances. Today, they have about 120 churches – many of these paired with a US or Canadian UU partner church. There are a few British Unitarian partnerships and also partnerships with the Remonstrants of the Netherlands. Although their religious beliefs and church services are more traditional than ours (there is a formal Unitarian catechism), we all share in some basic values and principles:
- the use of reason in matters of faith
- belief in absolute freedom of conscience
- tolerance of differing opinions.
The villages, towns and cities of Transylvania are set in lovely, hilly and forested landscape. The people open their hearts and homes to their partners in faith from across the ocean. Many Unitarian families still farm the land that has been passed down from generations. They still struggle to recover from the effects of over forty years of an oppressive Communist government. And now they struggle to make sense of Romania as a part of the European Union with all its standards and regulations. Through it all their Unitarian faith has sustained them.