Tristan Azbej, Hungary’s state secretary in charge of aiding persecuted Christians, and Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, inaugurated a cultural and vocational training centre built in part from funds contributed by the Hungarian government in Lebanon on Friday.
The Hungarian government contributed 2.2 billion dollars to the construction of the cultural and vocational training centre that will serve the “revival” of the local Christian community, Azbej told MTI by phone. In addition to supporting the Middle Eastern and Lebanese Christian community, the project also serves Hungary’s political interests, the state secretary said.
Lebanon is caring for some 2 million refugees, Azbej said, adding that if the humanitarian crisis there were to deepen, the refugees would likely flee the country, thereby increasing the flow of illegal migrants towards Europe. He said it was therefore in Hungary’s strategic interest to support and strengthen the local community and protect the region’s Christian heritage.
The government’s Hungary Helps aid programme is aimed at both helping persecuted Christians in the Middle East and stemming the flow of migrants to Europe, he noted.
The newly inaugurated vocational training centre will contribute to the education of Christian youth and women, allowing them to find jobs and make a living in their homeland, Azbej said.
The Hungarian delegation is in Beirut at the invitation of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Azbej said. He said the patriarch had conveyed his thanks to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian people for their solidarity.
Azbej said the patriarch had described to him the effects of the coronavirus crisis on Lebanon’s education system. Many schools have had to close and students cannot afford to pay their tuition, the state secretary said. In light of Friday’s talks, the Hungarian government will look into ways it can support Lebanon’s Christian education system, he added.
Featured photo via Triastan Azbej’s Facebook page