Stories from Prague
Religion and Communism
By: Jami Sall
Recently my friends and I got a chance to go on vacation to Prague. While we were there we met two sisters who we became friends with instantly. Marketa and Keri spent an entire day giving us a private tour of their city and inviting us into their home for the best ginger mint lemonade I have ever had! During our time together we got to hear many stories about their country’s history and how it had affected their family.
One of the stories they told us was about their parents lives during the Communist Era. Their parents were Christians and before the war they were free to meet and worship together and read Scripture with other Christians around them. These rights went away as soon as communism took over. They described persecutions they endured because of their faith – rejection for college admission and no Christian literature whatsoever was allowed. But they talked about how every now and then someone would get a hold of such banned literature and in order to duplicate it and distribute it to other like minded people they would each type up a few pages on their typewriters and then put the pages together to form a book.
When Marketa and Keri’s parents wanted to gather to worship, they had to go to the gathering place individually at staggered times so it wasn’t obvious. Even in these settings it was hard to trust each other because they were always fearful that someone there may actually be a communist spy. Market and Keri said that this distrust has even carried into their generation and that in general most Czech’s are still slow to trust others.
This oppression wasn’t just happening among the Christian community but also among other religions and communities that were anti-communism. It wasn’t that religion was illegal, but that it was highly looked down upon. In order to eradicate religion as much as possible the communist government would take religious figures and turn them into revolutionaries. They made Jesus into a revolutionary rather than a religious figure and Prague’s prided reformer Jan Hus into a communist revolutionary instead of a church reformer. Though the sisters obviously didn’t agree with this they were happy that it kept the communists from tearing down the statue of Jan Hus that remains in Prague until this day.
Today the country of Czech Republic has one of the highest atheist populations in the world. Is this the result of post-communism or modernism, it’s hard to tell. Either way I loved hearing the stories of how Marketa and Keri’s parents lived through the Communist Era as Christians with great faith and creativity. They did what they had to do survive and 40 years later following the Velvet Revolution of 1989, all the barriers would come crashing down once again allowing them to freely practice what they believed in.