Balog on Migration: “We Must Strengthen our European and Christian Identity”
Miklós Halász-Szabó 2019.01.23.
The dialogue surrounding migration is one-sided, superficial and propagandist, and meanwhile, there is an enormous need for meaningful conversation and debates—said Zoltán Balog, the president of the Foundation for a Civic Hungary, Calvinist pastor, and previous minister in the Gutmann Forum Club. He believes mass migration has positive effects as well: for example, it forced people to consider who we truly are, and thereby strengthened our European identity. This signifies the simultaneous invigoration of Christian faith which is the basis of our identity —aside from Greek culture and Roman law.
In Europe, even the atheists are Christian—Zoltán Balog stated, quoting József Antall who was the first prime minister after the regime change. In his presentation, titled “Western Christian civilization, Europe and migration”, he emphasized: Western civilization could not exist without Christianity and even the values of humanism are rooted in Christianity. The first points of the Ten Commandments are also essential, given that without a connection to God, “do not kill”, “do not steal” and the rest of the commandments lose their core meaning. For this reason, he believes these values must retain their spirituality and thereby liberate us.
The migration crisis can support these efforts: after all, following the events of the past few years, people have become much more aware of who they are, how they want to live, and how to defend their preferred way of living—said the leader of governing Fidesz party’s foundation. He emphasized that on the part of the Hungarian government—of which he was a minister up until the 2018 elections—the rejection of migration was not just a campaign tool. He believes it is connected to the fears ingrained in society, because people increasingly fear the influence of foreigners on the foundations of their culture especially if the culture of those foreigners is intolerant. Intolerance cannot be tolerated. Zoltán Balog reminded us that Hungarians had only lived freely for about a tenth of the past half of a millennium; for this reason, Hungarians’ sense for threats and the protection of national sovereignty are basic tenets. However, in western Europe, the prosperity of the past 40-50 years and the crumbling of the Soviet Union washed away any visceral sense of danger.
He does not consider the rejection of migrants unchristian, he believes there are many types of responsibilities: state, church and individual affairs must be clearly separated. An individual can potentially choose to sacrifice themselves, but the state cannot force one to do this. Zoltán Balog said: under his 2015 ministership, his congregation brought food and medical supplies to the migrants seeking asylum outside of the Keleti train station. Yet the question is entirely different on a national level: he claims that countries previously involved in colonization should be effected, given their significant role in generating today’s situation. On the other hand, the Hungarian government is helping; however, the problem should not be brought here, instead, help should be delivered there.
He critiqued the government’s expression of its position on migration: he believes there is too much propaganda and not enough communication or dialogue. But in Zoltán Balog’s opinion, there is a need for propaganda, just the question is for what purpose; propaganda produced with good goals is good, and propaganda for bad is bad. He maintains: there was just enough propaganda to win the election—yet he fears that the simplified messages may lead to xenophobia.
The leader of the Foundation for a Civic Hungary values the consolidation of Hungarian society’s cultural basis, inseparable from the Christian faith. This is first and foremost the Church’s responsibility, but the state can also help. Zoltán Balog praised the 2013 stipulations which required religion and ethics classes in elementary school, the construction and renovations of churches, and that, according to last year’s constitutional adjustments, every institution of the state is required to protect the nation’s Christian cultural identity.
The Gutmann Forum Club The Gutmann Forum is a series of programs created under the patronage of the Gutmann Bank and by the initiation of Antal Lipthay, a communications consultant. The goal is to call attention to the importance of morals, ethics, common good, collaboration, and sustainability—these are basic elements of a healthy societal and economic system. An invited speaker presents at every meeting and answers questions afterwards. The decades-old Hungarian Gutmann Forum Clubs have hosted numerous prestigious Hungarian figures such as Bishop Asztrik Várszegi; physicist and the Secretary-General, later Vice-President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Norbert Kroó; academic-economist László Csaba; economist and President of the Budgetary council Árpád Kovács; and pharmacologist, previous president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and chair of the Friends of Hungary Foundation’s Board of Trustees which publishes Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute, E. Sylvester Vizi.
translation by Katrina Hier on the featured photo: Zoltán Balog