Laszlo Tokes was born in Cluj, where his father worked as a Protestant pastor. In 1975 Lazlo graduated in Theology from the city’s Protestant Theological Academy. After completing his studies and up until 1984 he too worked as a pastor, first in Zarnesti, near Brasov, then in Dej, where he helped revitalize the Protestant community, especially involving young people: the authorities put pressure on bishop Gyuli Nagy to send him away from the town.
Tokes contributed to the underground magazine “Ellenpontok” (Counterpoint). In June 1982, he published an article on the situation of the Reform Church in Transylvania, in which he criticized the teaching methods of the Theology Faculty of Cluj University and the latter’s policy of refusing access to new students. He addressed a letter to the bishop of Oradea asking him to revise his hostile stand to the writer Gyula Illiyes, who had raised the problem of the Hungarians in Transylvania. The issue brought him before the Disciplinary Commission of the Dej Reform Church, loyal to State power, which chose to send him away from the town. Tokes protested loudly against this restrictive measure and was then punished for his audacity and banned from performing his pastoral mission. From 1984 to 1986 he was unable to find a job. In 1986 he was re-instated and sent to Timisoara. In 1988, along with almost all the city’s pastors, he signed a memorandum against the planned “systematization” of agriculture; in addition, he organized prayer and cultural meetings between Catholics and Protestants. As a result he was subjected to a series of persecutions that were to continue until after 1989. The bishop of Timisoara asked for him to be sent away, in March 1989 he was summoned to the diocese, where he was accused of numerous shortcomings, including failure to perform his pastoral duties, organizing banned religious services, failure to respect the ecclesiastic authorities and insufficient relations with State bodies for religious affairs. On 13 March 1989 he was arrested at a station and charged with theft. The agents that arrested him, confiscated certain manuscripts, including a copy of an open letter to the Chairman of the World Evangelical Association in Geneva, in which Tokes described the situation of the Church in Rumania. Following these events, the extraordinary assembly of the Evangelical community in Timisoara examined the possibility of having him exiled from the city. Although most of those present voted against, on 1 April he was suspended from his post as pastor and a disciplinary case was brought against him. On 2 April, the Dean in person went to Timisoara to publicly remove him from office, but his parishioners protested strongly and Tokes himself refused to obey. He gave in to his superiors’ decisions on 17 April, after considerable harassment on the part of both the religious and the State authorities. On 2 July he sent a letter to the deans of Oradea and Cluj, in which he informed them that he had resumed his pastoral duties, despite the ban. In the autumn he was persecuted again, along with his family, friends and the members of his communities. On 2 November a masked man tried to assassinate him. The police refused him permission to continue living in Timisoara. On 7 December the court placed an eviction order on him and the next day he was removed by force, along with his wife, while a large crowd of his supporters gathered in front of the church. Their protest continued for a number of days, until the government responded with force, killing numerous demonstrators.
On 29 March 1990 Lazlo Tokes was appointed bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Superintendence based in Oradea. The first congress of the Democratic Rumanian-Hungarian Association elected him honorary chairman.
Gardens that honour Laszlo Tokes
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