Tragedy Of Hungary Need Not Be Repeated
By DOUGLAS HYDE There were first signs this week of an uneasy stirring in Britain and America in response to the growing tempo of the Czech Communist Government's campaign to destroy the Church as a first step towards the destruction of all religious belief.
But if more action is not quickly forthcoming it will once again be a case of "too little and too late."
From Sir Patrick Hannon (Cons.) and Mr. Logan ( Lab.) in the House of Commons on Monday came an appeal to the Government to suspend trade negotiations between this country and Czechoslovakia until religious liberty is restored.
They met with a refusal from the responsible Minister, who again declared that the British Government are not prepared to trade only " with countries of whose politics we approve."
Mr. W. Fletcher gave notice that he would raise the matter at an early date. And a motion supported by a number of Members of both parties calling on the Government "to affirm and maintain the sacred right of all men to worship" has been tabled.
But events in Czechoslovakia are moving rapidly and no action after Mgr. Beran has been struck down will save him or stop the Cominform from striking next in Catholic Poland.
In using the technique laid down by Stalin years ago for the destruction of " enemy organisation " the Czech Communist Party is employing even greater skill and cunning than did the Hungarian party.
Their task is, if anything, more difficult. since they have to deal with a large urban population which has lived in what was once known as a model democracy.
They are therefore going to greater pains to produce splits and contusion among Catholics, to put up an appearance of acting within the Taw and to carry their bewildered public with them.
But the Czech people have traditional, cultural, economic and noiitical links with the Western de mocracies. They are likely to be apprehensive about snapping last links with Britain and being left only with their new Eastern orientation.
A protest movement big enough_ to reach them now would bring strength and encouragement to many at this pivotal moment.
DEPENDENT ON US
With its highly developed industry Czechoslovakia is particularly de pendent upon British trade. The possibility of a refusal by Britain to trade with countries whose contempt for democracy is a threat to the world would be understood in Prague and would not be without its effect.
The Czech Government hopes to rush through the decisive stage of its attack on the Church before world opinion can be mobilised against it. The protests will come, the Czech Government knows. as they came after the arrest of Cardinal Mindszenty. But they aim to ensure that by then the battle will have already been won.
Only the West can frustrate their plans and only immediate action will be of any practical help.
ACT AT ONCE If Catholic M.P.s are going to act. and if editorial opinion on the Press is to be mobilised and protest meetings to be held it will have to be at once if the trend of events is to be influenced.
Catholics should he in the forefront of bringing the dangers and urgency of the present situation to the notice of their M.P.s and to the country at large. When the "closing in " process against the Church in Hungary had reached precisely this stage, Cardinal Mindszenty said that Hungary was the loneliest nation on earth." It was the appalling loneliness of a nation waiting for aid which came too late.
Now it is Czechoslovakia's turn but the story of Hungary need not be repeated if British people who understand the issues at stake act now.
(Editorial CwMMettt, page 4.)