“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.”
– Joseph Stalin
“Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime is death”
– George Orwell
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”
– United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18″
“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Communism”
– Karl Marx
SETTING THE SCENE
Communism, an economic and social system in which land and capital are collectively owned, was playing out in the century that followed the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1948. Leaders such as Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin attempted to establish the Communist ideal in the USSR, an ideal which came with a very militant atheism. Faith, family and individuality, so-called bourgeois traits, were seen as dangerous and therefore needed to be eradicated. Karl Marx claimed “the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness”.
To achieve ‘real happiness’ religious and political dissenters were tortured, imprisoned and executed. The rest of the world, still reeling and recovering from WWII, was largely in in the dark about the moral experiment taking place behind the Iron Curtain during the 1940s and 50s. However, heroic efforts were made to reveal the truth.
- The samizdat (underground publishing houses) produced gospels and Christian tracts which kept the hope of free expression alive.
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, (based on his own imprisonment in the Soviet Union’s gulag) revealed the horrifying extent the state was willing to go to brainwash its people.
- George Orwell’s 1984 portrays to his western readers the possibility of a totalitarian government which monitors and controls every aspect of human life, even thought and belief.
- Richard Wurmbrand, who escaped to the free world in the 1960s, revealed the reality of Orwell’s dystopia.
FAITH OF OUR FOUNDER
Wurmbrand’s determination to confront communism with Christ led to 14 long years behind Romanian prison bars during which time his jailers beat his body, subjected him to months of solitary confinement and bombarded his brain:
‘COMMUNISM IS GOOD! CHRISTIANITY IS STUPID! GIVE UP! GIVE UP! GIVE UP!’
Miraculously, his scarred and weakened body survived the incarceration. More miraculously still, God enabled him to persevere in the faith: the many years of mental and physical assault did not alter the affections and allegiance of his heart. He loved his Saviour.
His suffering awoke a generation of Western Christians to the reality of communist persecution and greatly impacted those who met him personally. One such person was Reverend Stuart Harris, the director of the General European Christian Mission (ECM), who said he was “amazed and stunned by what [he] saw and heard. It was unbelievable that such tortures and horrors should be enacted in our own continent, Europe” and thus proceeded to co-ordinate Pastor Wurmbrand’s trip to England as part of his international speaking tour. Out of this Release International was born in the UK, along with sister organisations around the world.
The work grew quickly in the 1970s and 80s. As well as raising awareness of the need to support brothers and sisters around the world suffering persecution, Release sent aid and letters, campaigned for the release of prisoners, smuggled Bibles and Christian literature and mobalised churches to pray.
Today, the spectre of Communism does not haunt Europe – or indeed, the world – as it once did, but as its global grip is loosened other forces rise in its place. For as long as there is a need, Release International will continue to support Christians in the darkest places where faith brings them into painful conflict with their regime.
Our work would not be possible without your partnership.