By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary on Monday, June 20, condemned an attack on a Catholic theological institute in neighboring Romania that left its ethnic Hungarian rector briefly unconsciousness.
The Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told BosNewsLife it was “stunned” to learn about the “anti-Hungarian atrocities” this weekend in the city of Alba Iulia, in Romania’s Transylvania region.
Catholic witnesses said rector and priest Zoltán Oláh, 40, was beaten late Saturday, June 18, after he tried to film Romanian hooligans who threw stones through windows of his ‘Roman Catholic Theological Institute Alba Iulia’.
The group, described as “intoxicated Romanian hooligans”, then managed to reach Oláh and attacked him with at least one baseball bat, hitting his back and head, Catholics said.
He reportedly lost consciousness and was rushed to the emergency unit of a nearby hospital.
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Oláh was apparently later able to speak again after doctors stitched his wounds.
He did not immediately asnwer phone calls from BosNewsLife. “Another person with a Hungarian nationality” was also beaten, in the overnight attack, said Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Eszter Pataki.
No more details were released about that person’s health situation.
Romanian police reportedly detained two of three suspects involved in the attack, but released them to prepare for a trial. If convicted, they could could face up to 20 years imprisonment.
Pataki said Hungary was looking forward to a successful police investigation and “hopes that the offenders will be brought to justice as soon as possible.”
The latest attack has underscored Hungary’s concerns over the treatment of at least some 1.5 million ethnic Hungarians living in Romania’s Transylvania region, many of them Catholic and Protestant Christians.
Transylvania was mostly part of Hungary till 1920 when it lost its territory to nowadays Romania. “Although there were already attacks against [Hungarian] institutions, there was [in recent times] not yet violence against people,” spokeswoman Pakati said.
“The [Hungarian] Foreign Ministry hopes that this was an isolated incident and…not part of an orchestrated anti-Hungarian campaign” in Romania which would harm bilateral relations, she added in a statement.
Additionally, “The case contradicts the openness and cooperation experienced in recent Hungarian-Romanian contacts,” said Pataki, adding that it recalls a darker era of previous ethnic tensions.
In 1990 at least a handful people died and hundreds were injured in the city of Targu Mures in Romania’s worst ethnic violence since World War Two.
Tensions have recently increased between Hungary and neighboring countries after it adopted a law making it easier for ethnic Hungarians in for instance Romania to become Hungarian citizens.
The center right government of Hungary, which is currently holding the rotating European Union presidency, says it regards the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians, a key policy issue. Ministers of Hungary, Poland, along with Italy and France urged the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, this year to take up the issue of anti-Christian violence.