Conscientious Objectors in Hungary
My name is Karoly Kiszely. I am a Hungarian. I studied as a layman at the Theological Academy in Budapest. I now live in Austria, where I work as a social worker.
I was the first Catholic conscientious objector in Hungary. The double commandment of love - of God and of our neighbour - has always been for me the most important part of Jesus' ethical teaching. Indeed, the commandment for the protection of human beings - "Don't kill" is chief among the ten commandments. We not only have to keep these ethical principles but we also have to give incontrovertible evidence of them.
As a consequence of these principles, I cannot kill my fellow human beings, and according to Jesus, I must not even kill my enemy. And I must not promise - not even theoretically - to kill. However the military oath, or simply joining the army, are unambiguous promises.
Can anyone say that Jesus was a fool, or that he was teaching folly? But if we accept Jesus' teaching, we cannot say that killing our fellow human beings, or even the verbal or non-verbal promise to do so, sit well with him and his teaching.
I could not understand why almost all the members of the main churches in Hungary joined the army apparently without a moment's thought. I could not understand either that Catholics confess many things to priests, but I had never heard of anyone doing penance for joining the army.
I felt that I could not join the army. Hearing of my decision, many of my Christian friends turned against me. I found support from only two or three good friends.
I rejected military service in 1976 and I was sentenced to 33 months imprisonment which I had to serve.
The official Hungarian Church reacted with deep hostility to my action. The state authorities often referred to this and they stated repeatedly that I would not have been sentenced if the bishops had intervened on my behalf. My community, the Regnum Marianum, expelled me too.
Since my release many Catholic and Christian young people have followed the same path. For ten years I was an advocate of conscientious objection and of those in imprison. Then I was expelled from Hungary.
As far as I know, most of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops, but especially the Archbishop of Esztergom, have always viewed, and continue to view, Christian conscientious objectors with hostility.
I wish to appeal to those present to intervene with the East European State and Church authorities on the following points:
We want civil service (social work) without penalty or discrimination in all East European countries, lasting the same amount of time as military service.
There should be discussion in Theological Faculties on the conflict between military service and Christian morality.
The matter should be brought up in religious education too.
We ask the East European Bishops' Conferences to demand the establishment of an alternative civil service lasting as long as the military one.