FPI / October 9, 2019
By John J. Metzler
UNITED NATIONS — Sustained and increasing attacks on Christian minorities from the Middle East to West Africa are often tragically overlooked by the mainstream media, underscoring an aura of hypocrisy and double standards towards the free practice of religion. Yet, some are pushing back to this indifference and demanding that the systematic harassment and persecution of Christian minorities by terrorist forces be addressed and remedied at the highest levels.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has proudly and almost single-handedly confronted the unmistakable ambivalence and wall of silence towards Christian persecution.
In an exclusive interview with this correspondent, Foreign Minister Szijjarto stated, “Unfortunately, there is a global ignorance to the fact that the most persecuted religion all over the world is Christianity. The fact that four of five persons killed for belief are Christians is totally ignored.”
He added emphatically, “What we see is that the international global media and political elite suggest that Christian phobia would be the last acceptable form of discrimination and that is totally unacceptable.”
Ancient Christian communities in the Middle East are still being persecuted even after the fall of so-called Islamic State. As Minister Szijjarto states, “What we see is that the Christian communities are still badly suffering in the Middle East…even as ISIS is being pushed out of certain territories, nobody really helps with the return of the people.”
He stresses, “There’s the utmost importance to defeat ISIS, but it is similarly important to help those communities to return who had to leave because of the actions of ISIS. This is a responsibility of the global community.”
The Budapest government has initiated the landmark <em>Hungary Helps</em> program which focuses on socio/economic development in rebuilding destroyed Christian communities.
“Through the Hungary Helps program we have assisted 50,000 people to return to their homes by rebuilding thousands of houses, by rebuilding many churches, by covering medical expenses, and by rebuilding schools,” the Minister advises, while emphasizing, “Because our position is that we should not encourage the Christian communities of the Middle East to leave. We help them to return and to stay. This is what they want too”
Catholic hospitals in Damascus and Aleppo Syria have received aid for example.
Minister Szijjarto continued, “Whenever their Bishops come to Hungary, they always ask us to give them resources to be able to stay and be stronger on the spot instead of encouraging their people to leave. If we encourage them to leave, we are contributing to the goal of the terrorist organizations, namely, eliminating the communities.”
I asked for the specifics of Hungary’s noble mission; “So far we have spent $40 million; we established the state secretariat to help Christian communities in 2016. This has aided Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Jordan and Nigeria.”
Hungary Helps supports humanitarian projects for besieged and beleaguered communities. Interestingly this initiative comes from a small Central European nation which itself has faced the ravages of war, Soviet occupation, and a stifling socialist system which only collapsed in 1989.
Hungary’s unique mission is thus rooted in the nation’s tumultuous history. For Hungarians the Minster added passionately, “We always had to fight for our freedom One of the reasons the desire for freedom could not be killed was that we have been a Christian country for more than one thousand years! Christian faith and Christian culture helped us to stay strong.”
He added, that we must be brave enough to use these words; Christian and Catholic. He reflects; “I respect my colleagues who are Foreign Ministers from Muslim countries. They speak of the persecuted Muslim communities in such an enthusiastic way and yet, it is only us (Hungary) and the U.S. government and Poland who will speak up in favor of the Christians. ”
Significantly the U.S. State Department has launched a major initiative defending religious freedom globally. President Donald Trump joined other world leaders in attending a Religious Freedom Summit at the UN where he stated it was an “urgent moral duty” for governments to stop crimes against faith and repeal laws restricting religious liberty.
Hungary’s Minister opined, “We are very happy with the approach of the U.S. Administration because the fact that the number one superpower in the world takes the lead, the initiative.”
Minister Szijjarto stressed, “It is very important that your Administration is taking this issue seriously. We need one big power which bears the flag; You always need a Flagship. The Flagship will be followed by the boats. We are a boat in this regard, and we are happy to follow a Flagship!”
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).
Free Press International