With everything that’s going on in the world, Hungary probably isn’t on your radar.
But, there are two articles I recommend to you about Hungary.
The first is a news article from the Budapest Times, one of two weekly newspapers owned by a private publishing company in Hungary.
The article, a written interview with Tamás Török (by Jan Mainka in the “Politics” section of the paper and shared online), the deputy state secretary of Hungary.
The interview discusses ways that the Hungarian government is dedicated to helping persecuted Christians around the world.
- appointed Eduard Habsburg as ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See and the Order of Malta.
- provided humanitarian aid to persecuted Christians in the Middle East and raised national awareness about persecution.
- helped rebuild a Christian school in Erbil
- established an entire governmental department to help persecuted Christians and funded it with $3.35 million (Euros; equal to about $3.59 million USD).
When asked what the responsibilities will be in his newly appointed position, Török responded.
“First of all, we wanted to co-ordinate the already-running different humanitarian helping actions in a more effective way. Additionally, my deputy secretariat will start a scholarship program, which will allow us to host 250 persecuted Christian youngsters in Hungary for the following two years. We believe that enlightenment is very important, especially making the global public sensitive to the modern persecution of Christians. We will organize a world congress in Budapest each year with this aim, with the help of international experts and the leaders of the impacted Christian communities of course. Furthermore, we will publish a yearbook in several languages each year about the situation of the persecuted Christians. We also want to film documentaries about this topic. We would like Budapest to become an important international center in the protection of persecuted Christians . . .”
By establishing a deputy state secretariat.
“The Hungarian government would like to set an international example with this. We would like to point out that something is going very wrong. It’s our moral duty to help a society that is related by soul with us. Our government emphasized several times that it’s important for our future to maintain our Christian-Jewish roots. We Europeans are Europeans since we were raised in the spirit of these roots. Even if someone is an atheist, he is enjoying the fruits of these roots today. He is free to express his opinion in Europe, since we have democracy. Without our Christian-Jewish roots we would not have democracy, we would not have equality between men and women, we would not have civil laws. Unfortunately the European youngsters are taking all these achievements granted and automatic, so that they can’t imagine that these values have to be defended and strengthened. The Christian communities in the Near East are feeling completely different. The way they are defending their values, which are also our values, should be an example to us. Now they need our support so that they are able to live on according to their values and their way of living in their home country. . .”
Further down in the interview, Török stated that there is a common belief that the cause of persecution of Christians in the Middle East and other places by radicalized terrorists is due to “democracy export” from western nations into other countries.
“Even if we consider this quite questionable concept, we have to agree that we have to massively support the democratic communities in all the impacted countries, which also includes the Christians. At least if the authors of the “democracy export” are really serious about creating democratic processes. Up until now the “Arabian spring” realized just the opposite of all the expressed intentions of the “democracy exporters” for all the Christians in the impacted countries. For the Christians in the Near East life was never without any problems but in the meantime it became life-threatening. There are even real ethnic cleansing actions taking place. The global community can’t just idly stand by anymore.
We would like to achieve that more and more people learn at least what is happening to people over there, people who believe in the same values as we do. The highest goal of our newly created deputy state secretariat would be that one day it will have no reason to exist anymore, since all the Christians all around the world can live safely just like in Europe or the United States. However, I am afraid that this is going to happen only in the very long term. As long as it does not happen, my department will stay a solid part of our ministry.”
For more of this interview and discussion of how the government of Hungary is committed to helping persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East and Africa, click here.
The second article is a post by a Georgetown student on the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs that I wrote about a few posts back.
Noah Buyon, studied abroad in Hungary during his junior year at Georgetown and wrote a blog about his observation about “Religion in Hungary“.
In the JYAN (Junior Year Abroad Network) blog, Buyon compares religion and religious identity in Hungary and the U.S. I appreciate Buyon’s observations and concise comparisons between the two nations. You should read it!
At the same time, after reading Buyon’s blog, I am having a hard time reconciling the information he provides about Hungary’s overall lack of “religiosity”, backed by statistics, with the Hungarian government’s commitment to helping persecuted Christians.
Especially when you look at the big picture, which leads to more questions.
- How does this commitment to helping persecuted Christians conflict with Hungary’s hard-line stance against the current Syrian refugee crisis ?
- How does this commitment conflict with the European Union’s threat to expel Hungary from the union due to their “increasingly hostile approach to refugees“?
Consider this story about how a priest went against the Hungarian government and offered shelter to a few refugees at Christmas.
- How does this commitment to helping persecuted Christians conflict with the Hungarian Prime Minister’s stance to rid Hungary of all foreign NGO’s? How will this affect missionaries in Hungary? Will they be considered “civil activists” and forcibly removed from Hungary?
I applaud the Hungarian government for taking a stance in favor of persecuted Christians, especially since religious freedoms for Christians, Jews and other religious minorities has been hard-fought in Hungary. Considering that Hungary was just recently liberated from communism, the commitment to helping persecuted Christians is a remarkable fast change in views. To go from an anti religious government to being the first government to officially created a department dedicated to Christian persecution is commendable, for sure.
But I can’t help but to wonder if the move is meant to keep certain Christians in their own lands and out of Hungary altogether? I ask this because it seems odd to me that the very same month they created the special department to help persecuted Christians, the Hungarian government advocated for a “giant refugee city” in Libya.
I find it ironic that Eduard Hapsburg criticized European nations:
“Some European countries – primarily the ones north of the Alps – are trying to crowd out religion more and more from public spaces. They are giving in more and more to the idea that people should be purely secular, this is why they are sometimes completely overwhelmed when a very religious group suddenly appears in the open, whether it’s the resolute Christians in Central and Eastern Europe or the Moslems in their own countries . . . If I may take a look into the future: the central problem for the next years is going to be integration.” – quoted in Benjamin Kalkum
But . . . how can there be integration when you are trying to keep people out? How can religious freedom prevail in Hungary when the Hungarian Prime Minister called for the expulsion of all refugees from the European Union and closed borders, while at the same time telling the Vatican that “real refugees will always be welcome in Hungary“? I am getting whiplash from the conflicting views coming out of Hungary in regards to religion.
I also wonder if the Hungarian government is setting its own Christians up for another wave of persecution just like there was for much of the 20th century. Opposite creating a department to deal with Christian persecution, the Hungarian PM is a hard right-wing politician who has no problem shutting down opposition newspapers. and curtailing human rights.
Additionally, will the secular majority of Hungary resent being forced to help persecuted Christians and take out their frustrations on Hungarian Christians, missionaries and Christian organizations? Will we see a quick rebirth of anti religious sentiment in Hungary because of secularism, residual communist thoughts and the current political climate?
My prayer is that the answer is “no” to these last few of questions.
In the beginning of this post, I said that Hungary probably isn’t on your radar. But, perhaps it should be. And here’s why.
Our newly elected president, Trump, is a “big fan of Hungary“, especially the PM’s stance on the refugee crisis and immigration. Another thing that the two leaders have in common? A general dislike of the press. And, the Hungarian PM is using Trump’s presidency as a license to wage war on NGO activities in Hungary.
So, I expect we’ll be hearing quite a bit more about Hungary, and I encourage you to pray that the freedoms in Hungary that were recently hard won do not fall by the wayside in the current political climate.
Pray that the Hungarian government reverses its policies against churches helping refugees in need. Pray for the church to grow in Hungary and that missionaries will not be expelled under the PM’s “civil activism” proposals.