Viktor KOSTOV:

Honourable guests of this conference,
Dear hosts of this important event,

It is an honour and a privilege to be invited to share at this timely gathering.

The tile of my presentation is "The Defence of the Traditional Family and the Future of Central European Peoples in View of the Gospel and Human Rights".

Freedom for All or "Svoboda za vseki" is our organisation with 20 years of experience in defending human rights and debating theological issues and church-state relations. We started this work in Bulgaria to restore human freedom and dignity after the collapse of the totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe. We believe that the realm of human rights, in relation to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a good approach to engage in the Great Commission. Part of fulfilment of the commandment to teach the nations Christ's teachings is to oppose the tyranny of godlessness and the hatred of our neighbour. In law and politics, the defence of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and other fundamental human rights is a system of values that reflects love for our fellow man. The protection of the right to family privacy is one of these foundational and recognized human rights.

In this presentation I will submit that the traditional family is under ideological attack. I will also propose that our duty before God to defend the rights of parents and children, as well as defending human freedom and dignity, can be a unifying factor for Central Europe.

We, at Freedom for All, have taken cases and presented legal briefs and legal opinions before the local and Supreme Courts of Bulgaria, as well as taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights. This year we won a case against the Bulgarian government for slander against evangelical Christians in the coastal city of Burgas. The case lasted 14 years. In 2018 Bulgaria rejected the signing of the infamous Istanbul Convention – I wanna correct that notion that Bulgaria is not part of these countries that opposed the Istanbul Convention – which convention's goal is to redefine man, woman, and sexuality. This victory was in part because of our previous work against the draft Child Law of 2012 and similar "progressive" initiatives. In 2021 we filed a brief with the Bulgarian Constitutional Court in defence of the Constitution's definition of man and woman as a biological reality, not as a social construct. A few weeks ago we filed a brief with the Bulgarian parliament, along with 20 other churches and organisations, against the attempt to introduce censorship by a ban on the so-called "hate speech." We have defended parental and family rights while creating a network with churches and with established and emerging organisations, locally and internationally. The freedom to believe, to speak and assemble are freedoms any tyrant hates. For our work of pushing back against the normalization of sexual perversion and turning it into a novel "human right" we were recently labelled, along with others, an "extremist organisation" and that was done by an extremist anti-family and anti-Christian website.Today, if you defend the family, common sense, and the traditional notion of human rights you are labelled an "extremist." Tertullian, the church father of the 3rd and 4th century, rightly noted that the first reaction to truth is hatred.

Human rights originate in the church and the Christian faith. The apostles in Acts established freedom of religion and freedom of speech as the fundamental freedoms, naturally stemming from the liberation of the human being in Jesus Christ. Later, in the time of the Enlightenment, humanism adopted the idea of human rights and largely separated them from the faith. However, classic human rights remain, naturally, a legal tool for defending justice even today.

The family is the institution, which was created first, long before the civil government or the totalitarian state. Yet, undoubtedly, we are currently witnessing a neo-Trotskyite, Marxist, Bolshevik, and Jacobin progressive agenda implemented in the West and through the West. This agenda is pushed by the globalist so-called "elite" and "stakeholders" to control sovereign nations. It includes a vicious fight to redefine man's sexuality and the nuclear family and turn those into a parody of their natural design. There seems to be a goal to deprive peoples of fundamental individual human rights and freedoms. This is clearly seen in current political trends and events and we heard it in the other presentations.

It is no secret that the European Union promotes the politicization of human sexuality among European nations. The abandonment of Christianity and the introduction of a new set of "human rights" in defence of common sense, tradition, and human obligation is posing the question if the Union can live up to its own democratic values.

Looking into the Future of Central Europe

The reasons for Central European cooperation are found in history, in language, and in culture, but above all in the Christian faith. The common major historical challenges our nations have had to face in history are those of the Ottoman Empire and communism. These are political systems opposed vehemently to the values of Christianity. Also, the history of Europe is marked by the missionary work of many, among whom are the brothers Cyril and Methodius. In the 9th century they created an alphabet to translate the Bible into the Slavic languages. During roughly that period another missionary, St. Adalbert, worked to bring the Gospel to the peoples in Central Europe. The many years of Ottoman oppression, and atheist communist totalitarianism, were not able to eradicate Christianity from Bulgaria, nor from any other country in Central Europe. It is only the Gospel which can affect individuals and society as a whole in order to bring them back from a place of hatred and darkness to freedom and respect for human dignity. What God did for us in Jesus Christ, we cannot do for ourselves. Therefore, all the expressions in society of that helplessness to fight our own nature must be enlightened by our strife to love God and love our neighbour, the greatest commandments in the Christian faith.

In a strange way the recent totalitarian Soviet empire's grip on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe somehow made the connection between the Central European peoples vital and necessary. Communist statism produced a paradox – it became more desirable to speak in English and to people from the free world than to our own neighbours. We were bound by "internationalist socialist ideals." Yet we were more interested in the US democratic principles and culture, than – let's say – in our Romanian neighbours, living under the oppressive regime of Ceausescu. Our peoples were "united" by the same evil and godless regimes, treating men as only a corporate biological mass for the fulfilment of some utopian future while living in a hellish dystopia.

Besides offering salvation and life through the God of the Bible, Christianity has been fundamental to the formation of European civilization. There are, certainly, differences in the Christian practices influencing the various Central European countries. Some are influenced by Roman Catholicism, others by Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and there is a strong Protestant-evangelical presence in many of these nations. These differences are tied to possibly differing political views and practices. However, the Biblical practice of Christianity is based on eternal fundamentals recorded in the Scriptures. Christianity does not distinguish between… based on politics, but based on good and evil, righteousness and wickedness, forgiveness and revenge, truth and deception, on the moral and immoral, on the sacred and profane, on the temporary and eternal. From that higher ground we esteem politics, law, economics, art, and culture. If we don't have the ties of preference for eternal values of good versus evil, we will be swayed by utilitarian uses of the elements of material life and world. And this is the danger – materialism – that we are facing again.

In that picture, the protection of the traditional family, as created and ordained by God, and, of course, sexuality as well, is paramount for the survival of our nations and civilization at large. The current attacks on the family come not only through the extreme ideology of politicization of sexuality which is pushed transnationally. The destruction of our national sovereignty, under the guise of striving for international unity, is the door to the destruction of the country, the family and hence the person. Traditional human rights, worked out in a more sane, less radical era, when the generations were not the victims of imagined suffering and want, but a real one, are now being exchanged for the new radical social engineering rights of "sexual orientation, transgenderism, the abandonment of the biological and normal family and a movement toward transhumanism". The old dream of the tower of Babel seems to have possessed those institutions that promised a brotherhood of nations. How ironic and how predictable. History repeats itself.

Communism violently convinces people that there is no God, that man is just a better developed animal, that conscience is imaginary and the concepts of right and wrong always change, as the party changes, the ruling party that is. What should unite the nations of Central Europe toward a common future is not only the memories of the trauma of the morally corrupt regimes of atheist communism, but also the danger of sleepwalking into new forms of assault against our freedoms and human dignity.

The family and personal privacy are protected as a fundamental human right under the European Convention. However, lately certain decisions of the European Court of Human Rights have put into question the very capacity of the court, or at least part of it, to judge the facts and the law properly. Bulgaria has been the subject of intense political pressure to recognize that sex, human sexuality, is a social construct, based on sexual orientation, or sexual preference. Recently, a lesbian couple who had concluded a "marriage" outside of Bulgaria in the UK obtained a decision from the European Court of Human Rights to have their illegal marriage recognized by the Bulgarian institutions and society. LGBT activists are using cases like this to eventually impose same-sex marriage on nations whose constitution and traditions reject it.

We have a common history, we have similar languages, we have suffered under totalitarianism, and we are neighbours. The Christian command of "love your neighbour as yourself" applies to individuals but also to nations.

The future of Central Europe is impossible without the establishment of human rights as a tool to defend human dignity and the family, classical human rights. We cannot go back to the dark corners of totalitarian abuse of justice and secular power. However, man's dignity and freedom must be re-established in the light of the Christian Gospel – give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. The state and centralized governance must give way to the voice and the will of the people, who on their behalf have not only rights but a duty to God and their fellow man. If the state can redefine and control marriage, the family, and even sex and gender, the state has decided to stand in the place of God. The right to family privacy and protection from sexually politicized social engineering is a big step to the restoration of common sense. And for that we must trust and build each other through observing the greatest commandments in personal life and in our nations – yet again I say: "Love God and love your neighbour as yourself." That means: "Love the truth!"

The family stands in opposition to social engineering as the smallest sovereign social unit. Jaques Ellul has said that the foundational inhibitor of tyranny is the family structure. I am not referring to just any concept of "family" but the one that was established by the Creator from the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:27). "Male and female, He created them" and these are also the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, quoting from the Law of Moses.

The strongest connection we can have as Central Europeans is the defence of our essence as humans, created in God's image. We must stand in defence of the traditional family between man and woman and the right of parents to raise their children without intervention.

Spiritual Freedom. The communist regimes did attempt to create a semblance of international relations, but these were forced and never produced the true brotherhood that they claimed. You cannot truly love your neighbour if you deny the existence of God. Relational freedom is built on trust. We have a heritage given to us by missionaries like Cyril and Methodius and St. Adalbert, whose mission was to spread the good news of Christ. I need to make a disclaimer here, when I advocate for a Christian revival in Central Europe, I do not mean the resurrection of the heretical unification between church and Caesar, between the spiritual message and secular ideology. We know the failures in history to envision the kingdoms of this world as the kingdoms of God, built in the name of man.

We need personal and family freedom. Central Europeans are sensitive toward any limitation of those freedoms which were denied us for half a century – the freedom to think, to speak, to travel, to live with dignity and the freedom to believe in God. We know what a departure from reality looks like. We know how a godless ideology is able to deny the past, distort the present and steal the future. While we can be active members of the experiment called "the European Union," we should not look to our Western partners just because of their economic prosperity and financial prowess. I do not speak of some empty appeal to national pride, but to the ethical and spiritual value that comes with suffering. Not all is money, and not all is about competitive achievements. We have this common sensitivity against ideologies which appear to be benevolent but have a sinister aim. We must defend the traditional family and push back against any attempt to deprive our nations of their individual sovereignty in the name of some global vision of a man created in the image of some elite class.

The first task toward a closer unity of the nations of Central and Eastern Europe is defending our common freedom, including the rights of parents and the traditional family.

Thank you.