Europe can only be saved if it “returns to the source of its real values: its Christian identity”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Tuesday at the opening of an international conference on persecuted Christians.
“Those we are helping now can give us the greatest help in saving Europe,” the prime minister said in his speech. “We are giving persecuted Christians what they need: homes, hospitals, and schools, and we receive in return what Europe needs most: a Christian faith, love, and perseverance.”
“The Hungarian people and their government believe that Christian virtues provide peace and happiness to those who practice them,” Orbán said, noting that protecting Hungary’s constitutional identity and Christian culture was an obligation for each state agency under Hungary’s fundamental law. “This legacy obliges us to protect Christian communities persecuted across the world as far as we are able,” he said.
Orbán noted that the first Hungarian tribes arrived in the Carpathian Basin 1,100 years ago but many other groups had come and gone before them.
To this day Hungarians are curious as to why we were the ones to survive. According to the most widely accepted answer, our military capabilities and vigour would not have been enough, so the key to our survival was our conversion to Christianity.”
“There are some who see this as primarily a diplomatic feat or one of state organisation, and it was exactly those things, but first and foremost it was a spiritual rebirth and a real conversion,” Orbán said.
“The Hungarian people and their government believe that Christianity can help peoples and nations survive, just as it had happened with us,” he added.
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“Our first Christian king was more than just a remarkable ruler,” Orbán said, adding that King St. Stephen had been a visionary who had given Hungarians guidance and a “spiritual and political compass”.
The prime minister said Hungary was right to stand up for Christianity, arguing that “goodness inspires goodness” and Hungarians’ commitment to helping persecuted Christians “breeds courage”. “Our example can have a far reach,” he said. “Actions can free those who are crippled and restore faith in personal action.”
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Orbán said the question may arise whether there was already enough to be done about anti-Christian sentiment in Europe and if there was even a need to provide help to other continents. “The troubles of Christianity in Europe and the persecution of Christians in other places cannot be separated from one another,” he argued.
Europe is quiet. A mysterious force shuts the mouths of European politicians and cripples their arms.”
Orbán said the issue of Christian persecution could only be considered a human rights issue in Europe, insisting that “Christians are not allowed to be mentioned on their own, only together with other groups that are being persecuted for their faiths.” The persecution of Christians “is therefore folded into the diverse family of persecuted religious groups”, he added.
The prime minister said that while religious persecution should not be underestimated, those who treated the persecution of Christians solely as a humanitarian problem failed to mention the most important thing.
It’s not just the people and the communities but also the culture as a whole that is being subjected to an organised and comprehensive attack. Even in the land of our culture, our civilisation, the most successful Christian civilisation to date: Europe.”
He said this attack was being carried out through “the replacement of the population, immigration, stigmatisation, insults and the muzzle of political correctness”.
Orbán said there were many “good and true Christian politicians” in Europe today but they were stymied from openly stating their views due to a mix of constant coalition negotiations and succumbing to the power relations of Europe’s media. Hungary, he said, was blessed with political stability, a public against migration, and a majority that demanded the protection of Christian culture.
He said Hungarian politics started from the position that “we Christians have the right to protect our culture and way of life”.
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Orbán said that unlike many politicians elsewhere in Europe, “we believe people should be encouraged to live and thrive where their ancestors have lived for centuries. So the Hungary Helps scheme is about rebuilding schools, hospitals and dwellings in troubled parts of the world and providing young people with education at Hungarian universities, he said.
He said Europeans were wrong to think that the persecution of Christians could never take place in their own country. He said that even though Europe had suffered at the hands of terrorists several times, “many Islamic State soldiers” had come from western European countries while “Islamic masses” had migrated to Europe illegally and unchecked. Demographic forecasts indicate that the religious and cultural proportions in some European countries will change rapidly, he said, adding that Europe could only be “saved” by re-establishing its Christian identity.
The Hungarian government rejects an often-heard approach by the international community under which some forms of Christianophobia, or hatred of Christians could be acceptable, Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, told an international conference on persecuted Christian communities, in Budapest on Tuesday.
In his address, Szijjártó said it currently required courage to openly talk about the situation of Christian communities and participants in the conference had exhibited extreme courage when accepting the invitation.
Szijjártó said that last year 2,625 Christians had been arrested without any legal basis and 1,200 Christian churches had been attacked nationwide.
The international community is incapable of adequately handling the problem and often resorts to hypocrisy, he added. It is often suggested that talking about Christian communities is a kind of discrimination, he said, adding that crimes against Christians or other communities cannot be left unpunished. That, he said, could be interpreted as encouragement to commit further crimes.
Concerning migration, Szijjártó rejected suggestions that countries could only fall into three categories of origin, transit, or destination countries, and added that there are countries that do not wish to fall into any of those. Everybody has the right to have a safe life in their homeland, and the Hungarian government has built its policy towards assisting Christian communities on that basis, he said.
Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister of Lebanon, said that two-thirds of his country’s Christians have now fled, and urged a cooperation between East and West to fight terrorism. If Christians disappear from the land of Jesus, there will be no point in further protecting them, he argued.
Joe Grogan, home policy advisor to the US President, read out a letter from Donald Trump, in which the president spoke highly of the Hungary Helps programme, and thanked the Hungarian foreign ministry’s contribution to US efforts to promote religious freedoms.
In the featured photo: PM Viktor Orbán. Photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI