Aiud Prison, graciously proportioned and with bright yellow walls, rises elegantly above its surrounding buildings. Originally built in honour of a Hungarian queen, its pleasant façade hides its dark participation in the days of communist oppression.
For Aiud Prison was at the centre of the communist re-education program between 1960-64. This was the second such episode of the communist era, the first having been in Pitesti from 1949-53.
Among those who underwent the toils of re-education was the legendary Romanian Christian, Richard Wurmbrand. Although accounts are few, it is said that the Aiud prison witnessed a tremendous battle between spiritual darkness and spiritual light. It is claimed that the re-education period was actually a time of spiritual revival, with some prisoners starting their sentences as atheists and yet finishing as devout Christians.
Its involvement in the communist regime included numerous midnight executions. Prisoners were taken under cover of darkness to a bare wall outside the town, shot, and their corpses buried in unmarked graves a short distance away. Among the entrepreneurs and professors and members of Romania’s elite so executed would have been numerous Christians.
The 10,000 prisoners of the communist era have decreased in number to the more fitting 1,500 of today. Their crimes are often serous, as Aiud is a maximum security prison.
It’s also the scene of Iosif Ciungan’s labours for the Lord. Slight, bespectacled and gentle in manner, Iosif might not fit the mould of what one might expect of a Christian worker in a maximum security prison.
For over 20 years, however, Iosif has visited the prison at least once a fortnight to bring God’s word to the inmates. This is done in a meeting of between 15-20 people, many of them murderers.
To accompany Iosif on a visit is to have one’s preconceptions of such criminals challenged. Instead of muscular, brooding menace, most of them are ordinary-looking men of fairly mature years. Many of them suffer incarceration as a result of a moment of madness, the consequences of which now confine them inside prison walls.
As well as teaching the Bible, Iosif also has a specific ministry of aid to prisoners known as necautati. These are people never visited by family or friends from outside, and terribly lonely. Iosif brings them bags of essentials, such as soap, socks, some fruit and a New Testament.
In Romanian Ministries we’ve been delighted to help Iosif with the ongoing costs of this ministry, and pray for the Lord to save many souls.