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The Central European country known as the Czech Republic is a landlocked nation of almost 79,000 sq km (30,000 sq miles) situated between Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the southeast and Austria to the southwest. It consists mainly of the ancient provinces of Bohemia, Moravia and part of Silesia. Czechoslovakia came into existence in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the close of the Great War. In 1939 Germany marched into the Sudetenland and occupied the German speaking territory. Following the Second World War the communists came to power and the country came under Soviet influence. With the breakdown of the Communist system in the late 1980s the transition was made to a democratic state. On January 1, 1993 a peaceful separation from the Slovaks allowed for the establishment of separate states, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Politically, the Czechs are governed by two legislative bodies, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The population of the state is 10,300,000.
Economically the Czech Republic has had some set backs as it has emerged as a free-market state. Not richly endowed with many natural resources there are however some reserves of coal and iron ore which have contributed to the development of iron and steelmaking industries. Agriculture contributes a small percentage of the domestic output. Glassmaking has been a major economic factor in the country’s history with Bohemian art glass having a worldwide market. Tourism in the Czech Republic is a growing industry.
Slavic tribes were known to inhabit the area now encompassing the Czech Republic as early as the fifth century and many Slavs embraced Christianity. The religious reforms of John Hus swept the area in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries but by 1526 the Czechs became Roman Catholic under the rule of the Hapsburg Empire. Religious intolerance led to the Thirty Years’ War and Catholicism became the State religion. Today the religious population is divided between the Roman Catholic tradition and Atheism, about 40% each with the remaining 20% being made up of Protestant, Orthodox and other faith traditions.
Following the Czech Republic’s move away from the communist system the American a cappella Churches of Christ began efforts of outreach and evangelization within the borders of the country. Prior to this time there was some effort at mission work within the country but it was on a limited scale. Under the communist rule Christians were often abused for their faith. World Radio Broadcasts were heard in the Czech Republic and Eastern European Mission mailed tracts, magazines and Bibles to Czechs who requested them. Early in 1990 there was knowledge of eight Christians scattered about the country but none assembling as a congregation. Myron Schirer is said to have later worked with as many as 1,000 active contacts in the Czech Republic. Throughout the 1990s the Woodmont Hills Church of Nashville, Tennessee sponsored a student exchange program and several students at Charles University in Prague. The students used Bible courses written by Scott Owings and were assisted by veteran missionaries. A lecture series and English and Bible courses were also a part of the outreach program through Charles University. Several campaigns were also held with the follow work being done by American university students. A television program was aired in Prague as well as a “Let’s Start Talking” campaign. A Bible study center was set up in the town of Brno which also served as the site for a Bible distribution effort. Correspondence courses have also been utilized in strengthening churches in the Czech Republic, particularly in Prague. Several American missionaries from the a cappella Churches of Christ in the United States have worked in the Czech Republic under the sponsorship of several American congregations. One such family currently active is the Allen and Laurie Diles family who oversee the ministry God’s Mission to the Czech Republic.” This mission is supported by the Sylvan Hills Church in Sherwood, Arkansas.
The American Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have also become active in the Czech Republic since the dissolution of the communist system. Among the efforts of that tradition within the Czech Republic include a Christian Library in Prague that opened in 1999 under the auspices of the Institute for Christian Resources. The library is designed to give Christians and inquirers resources about Christianity and the Bible. TCM, International which has a European headquarters near Vienna, Austria provides academic training to church leaders throughout Eastern Europe and has active work within the Czech Republic. Impact Ministries International has recently opened a work in the capital city of the Czech Republic. The primary focus of the ministry in Prague is working with university students, high school students and members of local congregations providing them the opportunity to study, serve and develop spiritually. White Fields Evangelism also notes on their website evangelistic work being carried out in the Czech Republic.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
A cappella Churches of Christ
God’s Mission to the Czech Republic
Allen and Laurie Diles
Impact Ministries International, Impact-Prague
A cappella Churches of Christ in the Czech Republic participate in the Pan European Lectureship.
Prague Christian Library and Resource Center
Jim and Laurie Barnes, Library Administrators
130 00 Praha 3 Czech Republic