“Milujte se, pravdy každému přejte.”
It is the phrase carved on the foundation stone under the John Hus memorial in Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic. The phrase was taken from one of Hus’s famous sermons. Its translation? “Love each other and wish the truth to everybody.”
The Bohemian reformer, who preached faithfulness to the Bible a century before Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation in Germany, was burnt as a heretic in 1415. He might have never imagined how his example and his words would keep resonating across the centuries, and how, in Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White’s words, “the truths for which he died could never perish” (The Great Controversy, p. 110).
The John Hus Memorial has been a meaningful place since its inauguration more than a century ago. It became a place of collective pride, a spot that reinforces a sense of national identity. It is told that during the post-World War II Communist rule, sitting at the feet of the memorial became a way of quietly expressing one’s opposition to oppression.
Against this background, it is perhaps no coincidence that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is launching its continent-wide Christ for Europe initiative from Prague. Guest speaker for the May 12-27 evangelistic meetings is General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson, who will share Bible messages at the Bethany Social Center just a few miles south from the John Hus Memorial.
Before the end of 2023, hundreds of church leaders and other volunteers will preach at different venues and will lead outreach initiatives in more than three dozen countries and 1,500 venues across Europe.
Since its introduction, Christ for Europe has experienced an influx of volunteers, Adventist World Radio (AWR) president Duane McKey said. “Thirty church unions, 38 countries, and 1,514 sites will be involved,” McKey announced at the General Conference church meetings in April.
“One hundred and fifty international evangelists have signed on to preach, teach, and baptize,” he added. “Their efforts will be combined with hundreds of laypersons, local volunteers, and members at various sites.” AWR has been instrumental in the lead-up to the massive effort, which McKey called “the most extensive evangelistic outreach conducted in Europe in the history of the Adventist Church.”
The European continent includes three of the 13 Adventist Church world divisions and the attached field of Ukraine. In total, the European population is approximately 447 million.
The Czech Republic (pop. 10.5 million) has followed the religious trends that have impacted other European nations. According to religion data, around 90 percent of the population was Christian before World War II. As of 2021, almost half of the population identifies as irreligious (agnostic, atheist, or other irreligious stances), and another 30 percent does not identify as either religious or irreligious. Those who identify as Christians are just 11 percent of the population.
According to Adventist Church data, the Czecho-Slovakian Union Conference, which includes the Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia, included, as of June 2022, 9,471 baptized church members who worship in 187 churches and companies.
Adventist leaders hope that Hus’s “example of faith and constancy,” which six centuries ago “encourage[d] multitudes to stand firm for the truth,” may lead many Czechs to go back to the Bible to find truth, just as Hus did more than six centuries ago.
With information from Rachel Ashworth, for ANN.