Hungary – Brief YMCA History
History of the KIE (YMCA Hungary)
The foundation of the KIE is attributed to a young theologian called Aladár Szabó. In the 1880’s, he got acquainted with the Scottish Mission, he and other theologians began to organize Sunday schools. Almost simultaneously, a movement was started to form the KIE, even the secretary of the World Alliance, Charles Fermaud visited Budapest in October, 1883. After several lectures, the KIE was founded on the 31th of October, 1883, with the presidency of Aladár Szilassy. Aladár Szabó, along with Aladár Plichta, became the first National Secretaries. Until 1900, the KIE Bible studies and lectures were held in the building of the Calvinist Theological Seminary at Kálvin tér. Ceremonies took place in the Lutheran church at Deák square and in the Calvinist church at Kálvin tér at that time. In the beginning, most members were university students, but young craftsmen and tradesmen also joined shortly thereafter. Gatherings were held by Aladár Szabó, and later, when he became a teacher of theology, he educated his students to work with him.
After its foundation, the KIE played a significant role in society by carrying out its mission amongst craftsmen and countrymen who moved to the capital at the beginning of the century. The Folk High School Movement that originated in Denmark was also brought into and started up in Hungary by the KIE. Remarkably, the first Hungarian scouting group was also founded by KIE Budapest. The leaders of this complex and difficult-to-manage ministry were well-educated, highly devoted KIE workers up till the end of the 1950’s. Most of their names are still remembered even by organizations outside the KIE: Aladár Szilassy, Béla Megyercsy, Zoltán Töltéssy, István Pógyor, Károly Dobos, Sándor Bonnyai, László Teleki. Some of them were imprisoned by the ÁVH (State Protection Authority) for openly confessing their faith, István Pógyor died in prison – his peers still gather at his tomb, cemetery parcel no. 293, every year to commemorate his death.
In 1950, the leaders were forced to „voluntarily” break up the organization.
The moderation of the political situation at the end of the 1980’s opened the door for the KIE to reorganize itself. Dieter Reitzner, an Austrian YMCA secretary offered international help: Calvinist and Lutheran young people from Hungary were given the chance to take part in an Austrian leadership training in 1989. From this event, co-workers’ and leadership trainings have evolved, and even today these are the most prominent areas of work within the organization. Following the foundation of some local groups, the National Association was finally reorganized in 1991. The new KIE undertook two main projects: promoting local youth activities by organizing groups, further developing existing ones in line with the spirit of the Program of Four, and organizing trainings to demonstrate different types of youth activities. These trainings comprised the following types of activities: co-workers’ and leadership training, acting, puppet-shows, journalism, photographing, handicraft, literary café, Ten Sing, sports, dance, camps and children’s workshops. Thus VEZESS!, a methodological magazine was born, and a game book, a Bible reader’s book and a book of a collection of theatrical scenes were also published.
We also developed international relationships both with organizations to the East and to the West of us. Hundreds of young people traveled abroad to different conferences, trainings, and the same number of foreigners visited our country.
The KIE, similarly to other former social organizations, while it was allowed to reorganize itself in the new political era, has not been given back any of its nationalized real estates. Regaining our former conference building and a youth hostel would be an absolute necessity, but it took until 2001 to finally win real estate through government application. The building has been converted to a Youth Conference Centre and named “Sóvár” (Saltburg). Our central office, after years of being moved from one place to another, found its final place in 1994 in a former party hall on Horánszky Street, in Budapest. In 2008, we had to leave that building as well, and give up our national office in the capital.
All of our important files have been moved to our Youth Conference Centre in Balatongyörök, but we are still looking for a permanent place for our Budapest youth groups.
“…so that all may be one.” (Jn 17,21)
United in Diversity
YMCA programs may include activities ranging from Bible studies to soccer matches, from cultural lectures to anti-drug mission, from language courses to evangelism; comprising physical, social, intellectual and spiritual areas. Its basis: ‘And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.’ (Lk 2,52)
YMCA groups may differ from each other in nature. They are often influenced by Calvinist, Lutheran and Catholic traits. YMCA work is nonetheless always Bible-centred.
The needs of youth living at different parts of the country are diverse, which requires the ministry to be versatile.
Unity without uniformity
Jesus Christ and his mission is the centre of all YMCA work.
Even though our programs are versatile, each local, national and international association has a common basis: the Paris Basis, which was adopted at the 1855 World Conference.
Instead of uniformity: common guidelines
In the past years, a set of common guidelines has been outlined worldwide:
• The YMCA programs are open to everybody, but its leaders are Christians.
• Most YMCA workers are laymen, but there are partaking priests, too.
• The YMCA works with the youth, for the youth, as God’s ambassador. Its work is not for the benefit of itself or any church.
• The YMCA is an ecumenical community, even if local groups have strong relations to a Christian congregation.
• The YMCA is an international youth movement that is interconnected worldwide. It is present in more than 150 countries with nearly 45 million members.
• The YMCA is an independent organization that openly cooperates with churches and congregations, but it is not under their control.
Guidelines and responsibility
Despite of common guidelines and unity, it is the youth of local groups that takes responsibility for the work of the YMCA.
The local youth bears the responsibility on their shoulders despite all regional, national and international relations. They make their own decisions about the activities within the group. Regional, national and world alliances, however, do support them.
The YMCA is not a church, layman YMCA workers therefore need congregations and churches, where they can feel at home and can be prayed for.
The YMCA wishes to be connected to and to cooperate tightly with all youth organizations.
Responsibility and national support
The task of YMCA Hungary is to support the activities of local groups by all available means:
• national leadership trainings
• bracing and supporting YMCA workers
• organizing national conferences, silent weeks, camps
• advocating international relations
• lending and selling resource materials
• publishing vocational periodicals
The purpose of all YMCA work is to extend the Kingdom of God. Our youth will succeed at this task with God’s help, with prayer, hard work, love and ingenuity.
‘If Christian youth work integrates with historical churches by becoming their livening activity, but at the same time preserving its organizational unity, its nature of movement, and keeping the principle to bring the Gospel to the youth, by the youth: it does such a great work to which nothing else compares in significance.’ (László Ravasz, Calvinist bishop, 1939)
Main national programmes are:
• Building and gardening camp
• Tappancs summer camps
• KIE Café
• Autumn Retreat
• Leadership training
• Bible study week
• YMCA World Week of Prayer
• Operation of Sóvár Conference Centre
Main programmes of the local associations are:
• Creative workshop
• Women’s Bible study
• Bible study
• Youth club
• Creative workshop for children
• Sport activities
• Open house
NGS, Marton Tamás