Acta Sanctorum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and nondenominational Christian organization founded in Chicago on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Since its inception in 2009, our ministry has been shaped by the idea that freedom and responsibility must never be separated. The meaning of its Latin name (“Acts of the Saints”) reflects our fundamental purpose and the conviction that Christians have been entrusted with the mandate to better the world through words and deeds of love and justice.
The organization is devoted to transforming the present world into one which is more free, peaceful and just by promoting a greater degree of individual, social and political responsibility in Slovakia and other post-communist Central and Eastern European countries with the vision of contributing to construction and preservation of a good society. Our experience of living under a totalitarian system can be valuable to the United States and other Western countries in the 21st century.
Inform about the particular challenges present in post-communist countries, inspire by personal example, and provide concerned individuals and organizations with an opportunity to engage in transforming these places to become more free, peaceful, and just.
Assist people of Christian faith in developing analytical skills and moral reasoning about critical social and political issues of our day so they can effectively address these issues through their public witness and ministry.
Engage the wider public by publishing, presenting, and providing expertise in the areas of Ethics and Society, Public Theology, Church and State, Transformational Leadership, and the Pentecostal Movement.
Coming from a perspective of Christian faith, we believe that human beings were created in the image of God, but as a result of the Fall, they are tainted with sin that manifests itself in an incorrect use of freedom. We acknowledge the complexity of human nature and do not share one-dimensional or reductionist perspectives of humanity, thus attempting to avoid both the excessive optimism that would lead one to embrace various utopian social and political projects and the exaggerated pessimism that often leads to apathy, cynicism, and general resignation. We seek to appeal to “the better angels of our nature,” in the hope that many will embrace the values that contribute to the common good.
Our fundamental belief is that a more free, peaceful, and just world can only emerge by embracing a deeper sense of moral responsibility. We believe that the origin and grounding of this responsibility is ultimately in God, and Christian tradition provides a plethora of resources for the awakening and cultivating of moral responsibility. We do not claim, however, that only people of Christian faith have the capacity to act responsibly; thus, we want to cooperate with people of all faiths (or none) who identify with our mission. Avoiding the perils of both legalistic moralism and moral relativism, Acta Sanctorum contributes to the spiritual and moral renewal of society. We are committed to approaching vexing ethical and moral issues with conviction and courage, but also humility, believing that self-righteous and triumphalistic attitudes are antithetical to the spirit of true religion and prevent the creation of community.
We consider democracy, with all of its flaws, to be the political system within which freedom and just peace have the best opportunity to prosper. Human ability to act justly makes democracy possible, but the human proclivity to act unjustly makes democracy necessary. A vibrant civil society is indispensable to a functioning and stable democracy, and religious communities play an important role in its construction and preservation. While we adhere to the concept of separation of Church and State, we also recognize that faith and religion are not simply private matters and hold that religious voices should not be a priori excluded from the public square. Acta Sanctorum has a non-ideological approach to politics, and seeks to maintain a critical and creative distance from all the kingdoms of the world in its social and political reflection.
Prof. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Ph.D.
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, March 08, 2010
When Václav Havel gave his first speech as President of the newly free Czechoslovakia, as it was then, one of the things he said was: “We now enter the long tunnel at the end of the light.” How right he was! There is the brilliant flash of new-found democratic freedom and, following that – the Velvet Revolution – there is the long, hard work of sustaining a decent, justly ordered democratic society. One feature of such a society is its ethics – how it understands itself. One asks: What is the quality of life in common? Acta Sanctorum labors to keep alive a rich civil society, one in which an ethic of responsibility pertains. From the beginning, Christians were called upon to reflect on “life in common together,” as St. Augustine put it. Christians were to be salt and light to the world, enlivening all they touched and directing it toward peace and justice. Acta Sanctorum operates on this premise: what is the task of Christianity in a free society? How can Christians contribute to a good we can know in common that we cannot know alone? This ethics of responsibility is not aimed exclusively at Christians but, rather, is enacted in behalf of the polity as a whole. I commend the organization; honor its founders; and wish it Godspeed in the years ahead.
The Rev. Eldin Villafañe, Ph.D.
Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston, MA, January 29, 2010
In the ever-changing and complex world that we are called to be and do, the search for meaning, hope, and freedom are non-negotiable longings of the human heart. Along with these very human aspirations stands the continued challenges of human responsibility. Without human responsibility, meaning, hope, and freedom are but solipsistic delusions of a lost soul or society – ultimately, it is meaningless, hopeless, and libertine. What is most significant of Acta Sanctorum is its “response” to the “challenge of responsibility” so critically needed in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Acta Santorum invites, and joins others, in devoting its intellectual capital, energy, and faith in seeking to promote “a greater degree of individual, social and political responsibility.”
PhDr. Jozef Matula, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, December 31, 2009
After twenty years, Central and Eastern Europe commemorates the fall of the communist regime. This turning point in the history of these European countries has brought incredible changes into the life and thinking of every person. At the same time it was an endurance test, which has brought not only various disappointments, mistrust, or pessimism but also new hope, freedom, and striving for spiritual values. Acta Sanctorum enters this environment with a clear vision, rich with ideas of human dignity and solidifying the spirit of unity based on Christian spirituality of love. In post-communist countries that have experienced a systematic oppression of human dignity, Acta Sanctorum can assist in the advancement of solidarity and also actively contribute toward a greater understanding of issues related to religion and society. The founders of this unique project, which can become an instrument of hope for those who have been denied their religious or civil rights, are united by personal experiences, educational background, and especially by the attitude of genuine resolve. This resolve can be characterized by the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Never underestimate the individual's ability to change the world.”
David A. Escobar Arcay, Ph.D.
Professor of Education & Leadership, International Affairs, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL, December 29, 2009
In a paradoxical age of increasing global tendencies towards the presence of future dead certainties and the redefinition of meanings as a result of continual restructurings, the technological juggernauts, market fundamentalisms, standardizations, accountability regulatory schemes and in the face of local forces highlighting the absence, dismantling and weakening of revered past traditions, timeless truths and notions of integrity, identity and community, there is a significant need to foster a purposeful, dynamic and deliberative discourse on that ageless, old-century and enduring questions of freedom and responsibility towards both inner and outer-directed aims. Promoting a culture of peace, love and justice is crucial for the cultivation of life-long habits in individual and systemic ways directed at enhancing the common good. Improving the human condition anchored in a vision that is realistic and balanced (an explicit theistic-Christian worldview) is critical for it appeals to the universal longings of the human spirit. Acta Santorum is particularly called and qualified to make a lasting contribution. I commend this organization for its founders (my former teacher and mentor) are truly committed and devoted to documenting, searching and advocating for the cultivation and adoption (for renewal) of integrated and holistic mind-sets and strategies for the exercise and execution of individual social and political responsibility (for transformation) for the Eastern Bloc countries. Perhaps, many of us in the West have a lesson to learn from the excellent undertakings of this unique organization.
The Rev. Stephen Charles Mott, Ph.D.
Author of Biblical Ethics and Social Change and A Christian Perspective on Political Thought, December 19, 2009
This ministry is well-founded in Christian social ethics. It not only is an appropriate application of this foundation. It also concentrates on an area, the Eastern Bloc countries, where there are few other avenues for applying there our passion for love and justice.
ThLic. Michaela Moravčíková, Th.D.
Director, Institute for State-Church Relations, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, December 18, 2009
Acta Sanctorum is not only a non-profit organization, it is also an agenda for life. I very much appreciate that Martin and his wife Noema have decided to embark on this work. I remember life before 1989 and also the atmosphere of the Velvet Revolution. We would gather in city squares where so much of the good was concentrated… . Freedom has brought us not only rights, but also a multitude of questions, challenges, and new responsibilities. On the 20th anniversary of these events, it seems that we have missed many opportunities and lost much of that good. For Slovakia, Acta Sanctorum may become, and actually is already a helping hand in the right time. Martin's summer internship at our Institute has convinced me that he is the right man in the right place. During his internship he already devoted himself fully to his work and mission, with all the seriousness and integrity of a scholar, as well as with the love of a Christian. I immensely appreciate many of his attitudes toward life that I observed and I believe that they will provide a basis for the unfolding of good things. I am grateful for his many reflections on religious situations and state-church relations in the Old and New Continents. I look forward to future cooperation with Acta Sanctorum.
JUDr. Ján Juran
Director, Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, December 17, 2009
No country in the world can claim having a functional democratic system without the existence of an active civil society, which also includes a large and philosophically diverse spectrum of non-governmental organizations, civic associations, non-profit institutions, as well as churches and religious societies. An interaction and partnership between the government institutions and third- sector organizations is also very important. I confirm that the Department of Church Affairs of the Ministry of the Culture of the Slovak Republic appreciates the existing cooperation and opinion exchange with the staff of Acta Sanctorum. I first met Lubomir Martin Ondrasek during his Summer 2008 internship in the Slovak Republic, and our mutual cooperation has successfully continued with his active participation at the international conference “Financing Churches and Religious Societies in the 21st Century” in October 2009, which was organized by our Department and attended by participants from 22 different countries. I am confident that the ideas promoted by Acta Sanctorum will be an interesting and inspiring impulse and will be met with understanding and a good response from people in Slovakia and elsewhere.
Mgr. Milan Mitana
Athletes in Action, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, December 15, 2009
In Slovakia, ordinary people are losing interest, desire, and courage to participate in public life. We are witnessing a dramatic loss of faith in the capacity of an individual person to influence the course of events in their towns and neighborhoods, trampling upon an even slightly critical civic activity, and the arrogance and incivility of politicians and government officials at both national and local levels. Twenty years after the fall of communism, we have still not made a significant stride in the direction of freedom and responsibility. Therefore, the founding of the organization Acta Sanctorum, which is led by two Slovaks, is a very welcome and important occurrence not only for Slovakia, but also for other countries of the former Eastern Bloc. May hope that was lost sometime between November 1989 and the present day that “truth and love shall prevail over lies and hate,” return to the hearts of ordinary citizens.