May the first, Labor Day in many parts of the world, has also long been celebrated as a holiday among communist countries. “Workers of the World Unite!” is the common refrain. I’ve had the privilege of visiting various communist countries in my years working with Cru. First was Romania in 1983 as a college student, then to Hungary before the wall fell. I’ve also visited China in recent years. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the changes in Eastern Europe, almost half the world lived under a communist form of government.
Today much of that has changed. I remember walking around Budapest while the country was still under communist rule and looking at the various statues that glorified communism in Hungary. After the abandonment of communism in 1989, the Hungarian people began taking down these statues. Instead of destroying then, however, the Hungarians created a park near Budapest to display this part of their history. Called Memento Park, visitors can stroll through the grounds and observe the same statues I saw on the streets years ago.
A quote by Ákos Eleőd, the architect overseeing the project, gives insight into why the park was built: This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship.
Today is a day the rest of world celebrates those who labor, just as Americans do each September. Today is also a day when the few remaining communist nations celebrate their power and might with military parades and shows of force. And, today is a day when free peoples in countries formerly run by dictators can look back on their past. Finally, as followers of Jesus, today is a day we can give thought to where true freedom resides and cannot be taken away by governments or dictators.