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14 profess faith in Christ after 10 hurt in mob attack

RUGINOASA, Romania (BP)–After a violent attack against 10 Romanian Baptists in March, 14 villagers made public professions of faith in Christ and one family donated land for a new church building.

Police refused to help when local Orthodox priests ordered a mob of several hundred people to attack the Baptists, said Romanian Baptist Union leaders. The incident occurred in the village of Ruginoasa in northeastern Romania where the Baptists were trying to attend an Easter service in a home. Instead, they were stripped of their clothes, beaten, whipped and stoned by the mob.

As bad as the incident was, however, God used it for good, Baptist leaders said.

Romanian television and newspaper reports on the attack aroused widespread reaction. The outcry from concerned individuals and organizations caused Romanian President Constantinescu to order an investigation, reported Vasile Alexandru Tales, president of the Romanian Baptist Union.

Constantinescu then called a May 2 summit of religious leaders to discuss the rights of evangelicals in Romania.

The congregation has continued to meet in Ruginoasa. So far 14 people in the village have made public decisions to accept Christ. And a couple in the town donated land so the Baptists can construct a new church building.

“We praise the Lord that even though those who incited and inflicted the pain and injury on these 10 people meant it for harm, the Lord has used this incident for his glory,” said Mike Kemper, a Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board missionary who administers the agency’s work in central Europe.

The attack in Ruginoasa occurred after two Romanian Baptist missionaries arrived by train March 30 with eight lay Baptists from the nearby village of Pascani. The group came to visit a new congregation of about 20 Ruginoasa villagers meeting in a home.

An Orthodox priest tried several times to intimidate the Ruginoasa Baptists and keep them from continuing the new congregation, Baptist leaders said. Local priests also reportedly had used their sermons to warn villagers about the “Baptist danger.”

When the Baptist group arrived in Ruginoasa, a large crowd was already gathered in the village’s center. A group of men first insulted and harassed the Baptists, then pulled their clothes off and pushed, punched and kicked them, the Baptist leaders charged. A man in the mob beat the Baptists with a whip.

One of the missionaries asked for help from two watching policemen, but they ignored him. The crowd stoned the Baptists as they made their way toward the train station.

Among those beaten were a 14-year-old girl and a 71-year-old man recovering from gall bladder surgery.

The group finally escaped when they found a wagon driver who drove them out of town. The wagon driver took them to Pascani, where they sought medical help and filed complaints with police.

The Easter assault is the most violent reported so far in a string of attacks against evangelicals in Romania.

In June 1996, two Baptist men and a pregnant Baptist woman were severely beaten in the village of Braila in eastern Romania as they invited people to attend an evangelistic program.

A church construction project in the Suceava area of northeastern Romania was stalled when an Orthodox priest brought a policeman to the site, objecting to the type of paint the Baptists were using on their ceiling. And in the village of Ionaseni a priest came to a showing of the “Jesus” film and incited people to start a fight.

Romania is about 70 percent Romanian Orthodox and 10 percent Greek Orthodox. Orthodox leaders have pressed for a national law that would recognize only the two Orthodox church groups and Roman Catholics as “official” churches.

Romania is a responsive mission field, and Baptists have started 700 new churches across their country since communism fell in 1989. But about 85 percent of their churches are in northwestern Romania. An estimated 8,000 villages in Romania have no evangelical witness.

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