The six-day All Christian Peace Assembly in Prague last month was climaxed with adoption of a resolution pleading for “coexistence” and “constructive co-operationbetween Communist countries and those of the West.

The Czech News Agency (CTK) said the resolution, approved by 700 Protestant and Eastern Orthodox delegates from both East and West, stressed the need for disarmament and an end to nuclear weapons testing if “peace and understanding between nations” is to be achieved.

Milton Mayer, representing the American Friends Service Committee as an observer, praised the Czech Communist government for having been “so friendly, helpful and hospitable to this religious undertaking,” CTK said.

The following account traces Red efforts to “use” the peace pretext:

The Communist offensive registers its shrewdest propaganda advances in so-called Christian lands through the projection of socio-humanitarian movements which simultaneously promote social reforms and Soviet political views. The influence of Communist theory upon the Western Christian community is then expanded by enlisting the endorsement of clergymen for organizations which combine Soviet objectives with indignation over social evils.

The World Peace Council (WPC) is an outstanding example. After its founding in Poland by Communist agencies in 1949, it convened congresses in Paris and Prague. Delegates included Western clergymen of Catholic and Protestant (Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican) affiliations. Representatives of Baptist, Methodist and Quaker communities from Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary also participated. The attending churchmen set up a permanent committee (Metropolitan Nikolai, U.S.S.R.; Abbé Boulier, France; the Rev. Hewlett Johnson, Britain’s “Red Dean” of Canterbury; Bishop Arthur Moulton, United States) and issued an appeal to the world Christian community: “In the name of our Christian faith, it is our duty to affirm that no iron curtain exists for us, that different ideologies can peacefully coexist on earth; that the outcome of the class struggle, that bitter fruit of the profound injustices of the capitalist system, cannot be decided by the force which suppresses rebellion, that it can only be decided by justice, which defends the oppressed, and only on the condition that there is respect for the right of nations to decide for themselves which economic system is suitable for them.” From that time forward, the Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) has made steady gains in subtly enlisting the Christian clergy in support of world peace on the premise of “peaceful coexistence.”

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The British government’s refusal to permit certain delegates to enter the United Kingdom in 1950 resulted in removal of the Second World Peace Conference to Warsaw. Attending were 72 ministers “representing” 68 denominations, including Roman Catholic clergy, from Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and France.

WPC’s ruling authority is staffed by known members of the Communist party, left-wing theologians, parliamentarians, and pacifists. The council held its first session in East Berlin in February, 1951, and its program followed the Communist line without deviation. Among other points it hailed “peaceful coexistence” between the Communist and the capitalist worlds as the “golden rule of international life.” Meetings were held in Vienna in 1951, in East Berlin in 1952, in Budapest and Vienna in 1953, in East Berlin and Stockholm in 1954, and in Colombo in 1957. The council again met in 1959 in Stockholm, this time to chart a top-level reorganization. A presidential committee of 19 ardent champions of Soviet policy in social, religious, and scientific agencies in many lands was set up. Its chairman was John Desmond Bernal of Great Britain, who subsequently became acting chairman and then vice president of the council.

The council’s North American representative was Dr. James G. Endicott of the United Church of Canada, associated with WPC activities since 1950. A son of missionaries, born in China in 1898, and then himself for many years a missionary in that land, he defended Communist takeover of the Chinese mainland as agrarian reform and “the beginning of a movement that will sweep through Burma and countries as far west as Egypt.” Organizer and president of the Canadian Peace Congress, he not only “represents” North America on the presidential committee of WPC, but is president of the International Institute of Peace founded in Vienna in 1957. The institute’s main line is promotion of the Communist slant on “peaceful coexistence” and “disarmament.” The executive leadership of IIP interlocks with that of WPC and both groups champion Soviet foreign policy.

WPC has steadily wooed representatives from church and religious organizations. The “coexistence” thesis is promoted in the name of brotherhood and justice. Concealed are the essential antipathy of Marxism toward supernatural religion and the conflict of Christianity with communism. Communist leaders consider the party’s ideology superior to Christianity. Lenin referred to Marx’s saying that “religion is the opiate of the people” as “the cornerstone of the Marxist point of view in the matter of religion. Marxism has always viewed all contemporary religion and churches, all and every kind of religious organization, as agencies of bourgeois reaction, serving as a defense of exploitation and the drugging of the working class.” Stalin, a former divinity student, closed the majority of the churches from 1929 to 1943, sent church leaders to concentration camps, and was responsible for the execution of many clergymen.

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Stalin decreed the reopening of the churches in 1943 on the basis of coexistence with the atheistic Communist ideology, and by the temporary tolerance of the totalitarian state. The churches have been prized as a useful instrument for promoting the Soviet “peace offensive.” Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Nikolai has ardently supported Lenin-Stalin doctrine, praised Stalin as the standard-bearer of peace, attacked the United States as a warring imperialist power, and demanded arms reduction and banning of atomic weapons in line with Soviet proposals. He has urged WPC churchmen to become missionaries to permeate church ranks and humanitarian organizations with the philosophy of “peaceful coexistence on earth.” The image of “the American aggressor” is fortified by Nikolai’s appeal especially to “the millions of American religious people” in these terms: “Constituting the vast majority of the population of the United States, you have every opportunity of compelling your administration to … adhere to the International Convention of June 17, 1925, which prohibits the use of asphyxiating gases and germs in war.” The same line has been taken by Paul Matsunov, president of the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists. He has deplored “the atom and hydrogen bombs the American aggressors contemplate using in a future war,” and urged American support for WPC objectives. Similar glorifications of the peaceful pursuits of the Soviet alongside condemnations of American imperialism and aggression may be cited from the pronouncements of Jean Kiivit, archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church; Jakob Zhidkov, chairman of the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christian Baptists and a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance (who has contrasted “the vast difference … between the peaceful construction in the U.S.S.R. and People’s Democracies and the horrifying armaments race in the U.S.A., Great Britain, and other countries connected with them”) and Alexander Karev, secretary-general of the All-Union Council.

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The World Council of Churches became a special medium through which Eastern bloc churchmen dedicated to WPC sought to indoctrinate the American Christian community in the ideology of “peaceful coexistence” in the Soviet framework. WCC’s readiness to venture social, economic, and humitarian pronouncements made it a desirable forum through which to promote, if Soviet propagandists could achieve this, sympathy for temporary international objectives serviceable to advance the Communist cause. WCC is a massive organization whose Central Committee includes a great diversity of theological opinion, and there are wide differences of socio-political outlook.

WCC’s first assembly in 1948 saw strong appeals for peaceful coexistence between Christianity and communism. The pressures upon delegates supply an instructive index to Soviet strategy. Participants in a “sub-committee on communism and capitalism” were told of the “failure” of Christianity and of the “success” of communism in underdeveloped areas. The committee chairman, Dr. C. L. Patijn of The Netherlands, noted that “for many young men and women, communism seems to stand for a vision of human equality and universal brotherhood for which they were prepared by Christian influences.” The committee report tilted in favor of communism (“Communist ideology puts the emphasis upon economic justice.… Capitalism puts the emphasis upon freedom.…”). Despite sharp assembly criticism that the report offered no positive Christian alternative to communism, liberal influences preserved the direction of the report. The Rev. C. E. Douglas (United Kingdom) declared it “wrong to think that Russian commuism was anti-God.”

Eastern bloc delegates, rather silent in the open sessions, managed to seat five persons on WCC’s Central Committee: Bishop Lajos Ordas, Lutheran clergyman known for his outspoken criticism of the Hungarian Red regime and for his defiant opposition to the Communist Party; Dr. Laszlo Pap of the Reformed Church of Hungary; Bishop Lajos Veto of Hungary; Professor Joseph Hromadka of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren; and Bishop Jan Szeruda of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburgian Confession of Poland. Bishop Fedor Ruppeldt, a Slovak clergyman, was elected in 1949.

WCC’s 1954 assembly at Evanston brought the coexistence doctrine directly to the American church community. Whereas the Amsterdam program included prominent conservative spokesmen, Evanston reflected political planning. Bishop Ordas, who had been sharply criticized in Communist organs for his stand, was omitted from the Evanston assembly. Also absent was Bishop Jan Szeruda, whom the Communists had relieved of his post and replaced by a known collaborator, Karol Kotula. Bishop Ruppeldt was reported to have “retired.” Bishop Laszlo Ravasz, chairman of the Hungarian Ecumenical Synod and a delegate to Amsterdam, whom Hungarian politicians forced to resign as the alternative to cutting off the salaries of all Reformed teachers and stopping the educational work of the Church, was absent. Baron Albert Radvanszky, supervisor general of the Evangelical Church of Hungary and an Amsterdam delegate, had been arrested. Whereas the conservative element of the Eastern church participated at Amsterdam, Evanston delegates reflected the impact of the Communist party upon the churches in the “peoples democracies.”

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Re-elected at Evanston was Professor Hromadka, a supporter of the WPC from its start and an outspoken backer of the Red Hungarian government. While not claiming to be a member of the Communist party, Hromadka has consistently promoted Christian-Communist “reconciliation” for a mutual promotion of peace and order. An exile during World War II, Hromadka served as a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. After the war, he returned to Czechoslovakia and, after the Red regime took control of the nation, became head of a seminary in Prague. He refused to come to the aid of Czech Baptist leaders who were given long jail sentences because they remained loyal to their faith. In 1951 he told the World Congress of Peace Partisans in Finland: “Christians and non-Christians, Communists and non-Communists can stand together because our efforts are the same; therefore, I urge all Finnish Christians to join our work for the peaceful and generous world.” In Czechoslovakia he joined Eastern and Western European churchmen (Dr. Johnson, the “Red Dean” of Canterbury, and the Rev. John W. Darr of the United States among them) in supporting the Soviet Union and its “peace-loving efforts.” In part, the resolution read: “We are Christians, preachers of Christ’s teachings of love and peace and therefore we are for peace. This is why we are proud to declare ourselves part of the great peace camp led by the Soviet Union. We are confident that we will best serve the cause of peace if, in accord with the will of God, we devote all our priestly endeavors in helping our working people to build up socialism, the victory of which is also a guaranty of lasting peace among nations.”

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In 1953 the Communist government awarded Professor Hromadka the first Czechoslovak Peace Prize and in 1954 the Order of the Republic for unique service to the cause of world communism. He served on the sponsoring committee of the Congress of Disarmament and Co-operation in 1958 in Stockholm, received the International Lenin Peace Prize, and was elected a vice president of the Czechoslovak Peace Committee. In 1959 he joined in the tenth anniversary celebration of WPC in Stockholm.

Also re-elected to WCC’s Central Committee at Evanston were Dr. Pap and Bishop Veto, both thorough supporters of the Hungarian regime. An active member both of WPC and the Hungarian National Peace Council, Veto was sharply criticized by Lutheran bishops and ministers during the 1956 Hungarian rebellion, and reportedly resigned under their pressure.

Still another elected to WCC’s Central Committee at Evanston was Bishop Jan Chabada of Czechoslovakia, who in 1951 was designated General Bishop of the Evangelical Church with the state’s consent after Peter Zatko’s deposition. A supporter of the Communist party since the revolution, when he already was a party member, Chabada has also been actively associated with WPC. He was a delegate to WPC’s 1959 Stockholm celebrations.

Other Iron Curtain country delegates at Evanston supporting the “coexistence” motif and the church peace movements were Dr. Viktor Hajek of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Dr. Jan Michalko of the Evangelical Church of Slovakia, Bishop Emrich Varga of the Reformed Church in Slovakia, Bishop Lazlo Dezsery of the Lutheran Church of Hungary, Bishop Albert Bereczky and Bishop John Peter of the Reformed Church of Hungary.

Of the Eastern bloc delegates, Bishop Peter had long placed his services at the Communist Party’s disposal, and was frequently named to high positions by the Hungarian Red regime. Since 1953 he has been a member of the National Assembly. At the height of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 he was labeled a “Stalinist” and resigned, but once the Communist party regained power he was named president of the Institute of Cultural Relations. In July, 1957, he became vice chairman of the National Peace Commission, and in 1958 was made First Deputy Foreign Minister and a member of the Hungarian Delegation to the thirteenth session of the United Nations. In 1959 he became a member of the “puppet” regime’s Presidential Council. He served on the planning committee for the Seventh World Youth Festival sponsored in Vienna by Communist-front organizations to enlist young people. An active member of WPC, he holds several high awards for his efforts in the peace movement.

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Bishop Dezsery, too, was disallowed to preach or hold services in the Reformed Church of Hungary at the height of the peoples’ uprising. As secretary of the Hungarian Peace Committee, a national affiliate of WPC, he has actively supported the Communist peace line.

The co-ordinated objective of the Eastern bloc delegates emerged clearly when WCC debate centered on social issues. In the “Section on Social Questions,” the attempt to preserve a plea for “coexistence” with communism was barely softened to the idea of “living together.” The report singled out American foreign policy for special criticism on the ground of its anti-Communist orientation. When the bloc delegates returned to their homelands, they spoke of their “sad American experiences,” of “the horrors of American life,” and of the successes registered by “Iron Curtain churches at the Evanston Assembly.”

When WCC’s Central Committee met in Rhodes, Greece, in August, 1959, the first concern of Soviet bloc delegates was to convince Western clergymen that “Christians must learn to live with communism if they are to survive in the ‘Red world.’ ”

At last summer’s Central Committee meeting in Scotland, Bishop Tibor Bartha substituted for Dr. Pap and Bishop Zoltan Kaldy for Bishop Veto. Kaldy recently deplored the fact that his fellow Lutheran ministers delivered “only a few sermons which explained to the congregation the role of the church in socialism” and criticized efforts to remain apolitical.

In recent months pressures are believed to have been exerted on part of the Orthodox Church of U.S.S.R. to link up with WCC and an application has been submitted. Whether the link eventuates or not, observers expect the Eastern bloc’s promotion of the Communist-Christian coexistence theory to reach a new peak in conjunction with WCC’s Third Assembly, scheduled next November and December in New Delhi.

The Christian Peace Conference originated in Prague at a meeting of Czechoslovakian clergymen, December 3–5, 1957, when delegates specially discussed “problems of peace and war from the Christian standpoint.” CPC agreed to convene “outstanding Christian churches” irrespective of confession or nationality” for the attainment of ends which in the last analysis are also those of the churches—the cessation of arming and the assurance of peace.” CPC gathered in Prague June 1–4, 1958, with delegates coming primarily from Eastern bloc churches. They elected Dr. Hajek, who had been a delegate at Evanston, as CPC chairman; Bohuslav Popisíl of Prague (now deceased), secretary; and a four-man working and initiating committee consisting of Dr. Hromadka, Dr. Heinrich Vogel, professor in Humboldt University of East Berlin (a CPC supporter from its beginnings and an outspoken critic of Bishop Otto Dibelius); Bishop Veto, and B. Popisíl in addition to the foregoing, the following were elected to a Continuing Committee: Bishop Bartha; Dr. Emil Fuchs of Leipzig, East Germany; Alfred Hermann, Episcopal vicar from Roumania; Dr. Chabada; Alexander Karev of the Soviet Union; Archbishop Jaan J. Kiivit, Evangelical Bishop of Lithuania; Dr. Miklos Palfy of Budapest; Dr. Lev Nikolaevich Pariyski of Leningrad; Professor Wantula of Warsaw; Bishop Miroslav Navek of Prague, and Dr. Hans Joachim Iwan of Bonn. The latter two participated the following month in the WPC Stockholm conference.

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Discussing the relation of CPC to WCC, Dr. Hromadka was critical of the WCC along these lines: “In Amsterdam, Evanston and at other conferences much that is decisive was said. But the need of today requires an even more decisive word.… We can perhaps contribute to the end that the Ecumene will say that strong, creative, prevailing and decisive word in the near future.…” Bishop Iwan of Leipzig (now deceased) called upon Christians everywhere to accept “the coexistence of ideologies.” He declared it “a profound sin” not to want to live in one world with people who pay homage to the socialist idea, with people for whom Marx and Lenin have become the signpost for the order of their life.… If we do not want to, then we cannot do any work for peace.”

CPC’s enlarged Continuing Committee met in Warsaw November 5–8, 1959, to carry forward its “church peace offensive.” Plans were projected for this year’s All-Christian Peace Assembly. Hungarian Protestant Bishop Szamoskozi, reportedly the successor to retired Albert Bereczky, then told the press that CPC “has been winning growing support from Protestant Churches both in the East and in the West.… The fact that a big ecclesiastical delegation came from West Germany to take part in the Warsaw discussions is further proof of the success of our efforts.… Conditions are now favorable for convening a big Christian Peace Conference, which could without doubt help our movement to win its aims.” These aims he stipulated as “general disarmament, the cessation of nuclear and hydrogen weapons tests, and the realization of the policy of peaceful coexistence.”

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At a meeting of CPC’s theological commission in Debrecen in April, 1960, even more aggressive support was evident for the premise of ideological coexistence: “… We regard the cessation of all nuclear-weapon tests as the first effective and positive step towards universal and total disarmament. We are convinced that war must be eliminated once and for all as a means of settling international differences.…”

Moscow Radio in its foreign language broadcasts subsequently opened a propaganda drive to urge world religious leaders to participate in the All Christian Peace Assembly.

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