Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced in a recent Facebook video that in 2023 Hungary will support programmes worth 1.4 billion forints (3.7 million euros) in 25 countries within the framework of the Hungary Helps Programme, which contributes to helping people stay in their local communities.
The minister explained that since the migration concept of ‘bringing everyone to Europe’ failed, it’s has become even more important to ‘bring help where the trouble is to help people stay in their homes, instead of bringing trouble where there is no trouble for the time being.’ Péter Szijjártó also stressed that today’s world faces many dire challenges, among which the war in Ukraine is at the top of the news agenda, and even though today we talk less about health challenges, pandemics are still ravaging the world, the migratory pressure is worsening, the spread of terrorism is increasing, and extremist ideologies are rising.
The minister highlighted that Hungary, with this strategy, has successfully supported communities so far in 50 countries around the world, by building schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. He also highlighted that Hungary has a thousand-year-old Christian statehood; therefore, supporting Christian communities will remain a primary focus of the Hungary Helps Program, with Christians worldwide facing severe hardship every day.
The minister explained that the new programme will focus on Africa, where the spread of extremist ideologies, partly due to food shortages and difficulties caused by natural disasters, exacerbates the threat of terrorism. He also mentioned that, as in previous years, the programme will focus on the Middle Eastern and Asian regions as well. Szijjártó added that Hungary will also help Western Balkan countries, where migration is posing significant challenges.
Hungary Helps Has Assisted One Million People in Need
As State Secretary Tristan Azbej highlighted at a press conference on 12 April, Hungary has helped one million people in need in more than 50 countries with the Hungary Helps Programme. ‘At the moment, Christianity is the most persecuted religion regarding the number of souls, but the world does not want to acknowledge that Christians and believers are being persecuted because of their religioun and convictions,’ he emphasised. The State Secretary also pointed out that today over 360 million Christians worldwide are persecuted, and while Hungary was peacefully preparing for Easter, in the week before the holiday in Nigeria alone 143 cases were reported in which extremist terrorists killed Christian people because of their faith.
As Hungarian Conservative reported earlier, according to the 2023 World Watch List compiled by Open Doors, the situation of Christians has worsened in Nigeria since last year, making the African state the sixth most dangerous country for Christians in the world, with the level of persecution becoming ‘extreme’. In Nigeria, 46 per cent of the population is Christian, meaning that around 100,420,000 believers live in the country. Persecution is the most severe in the north, where militant groups such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, and Fulani militants work together against Christians and against Muslims who don’t support their agenda. According to the report, ‘religiously motivated killings in Nigeria have risen from 4,650 last year to 5,014 – a staggering 89 per cent of the international total.’
In January 2023, the Hungarian government provided three thousand dollars in immediate emergency humanitarian aid to the Catholic Church in Nigeria through the Hungary Helps Programme after the brutal terrorist attack on 15 January 2023 in which terrorists burnt Reverend Father Isaac Achi alive in his home and severely injured another priest in Nigeria’s Kafin-Koro village and a few hours terrorists carried out a separate attack on Christians in the northern Katsina state, where they shot a priest and abducted five people from their homes as they were preparing to go to Sunday mass. As David Curry, the president and CEO of Global Christian Relief, stressed in a recent Danube Institute Reflections from Budapest podcast episode, ‘If the situation won’t change, Islam extremist groups will take over Sub-Saharan Africa, just like ISIS took over several Middle Eastern countries, which would affect tragically African Christians.’
In 2018, the Hungary Helps Agency provided 2 million euros in aid for the reconstruction of a Christian town in Iraq that was destroyed in 2014, which in recognition of the gesture, was renamed Tel Askouf, meaning ‘Hungary’s daughter’. The assistance was praised by activists like Juliana Taimoorazy, the founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, who expressed her gratitude to Hungary that the country ‘responds to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East not with indifference, but with love and help’.
The Hungary Helps Programme, however, does not only help persecuted Christians, but provides effective support in crisis areas and areas that are hit by man-made or natural disasters as well. Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, Hungary has provided 130 billion forints (335.6 million euros) in aid to the victims of the war in Ukraine. Among other things, Hungary has undertaken to rebuild a school, a municipality, and a health centre and helped more than 500,000 Ukrainian refugees. Hungary also sent ten tons of relief supplies to Turkey immediately after the deadly earthquakes on 6 February and 50 million forints (132,000 euros) to Syria.
The Hungary Helps Programme also gives aid to other persecuted religious minorities,
such as the persecuted Muslim communities. Since its foundation, it has helped oppressed Muslim communities by giving humanitarian help and medical aid to the Myanmar refugees who had to flee to Bangladesh. It also made it possible for 20 Muslim families in Bangladesh to build houses so they won’t have to emigrate. The programme also supports, for example, those Christian schools in the Middle East and Africa that are open to both Christian and Muslim students. Since 2019, Hungary has also assisted the settlement and return of Yazidi refugees in the Iraqi Sinjar region and Dahuk Governorate through 5 reconstruction, rehabilitation, educational, and health projects within the framework of the Hungary Helps Programme.
‘The Opposite of Love Is Not Hatred; It Is Indifference’
As State Secretary Tristan Azbej noted in an interview, in 2016 the Hungarian government recognised the need to support persecuted and discriminated Christians at a governmental level as international organisations either don’t deal with the persecution of Christians or their actions are not sufficient. Many attempt to hide one of the most burning crises of our age, mainly for political and ideological reasons. The recognition of the size of the problem by the Orbán administration led to the setting up of the unique governmental role of the Deputy State Secretariat for Persecuted Christians and to the launching of the Hungary Helps Programme. The Hungary Helps Agency, which works as a non-profit organisation under the coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, was established on 14 April 2019.
The fact that Western organisations, leaders and the mainstream media seem to ignore one of the most burning issues of our decade hasn’t changed since the foundation of the Hungary Helps Programme; if anything,
the indifference to the sufferings of oppressed Christians has grown.
As more Christian communities are getting closer to extinction and the situation of persecuted Christians is getting worse year by year, the international community should follow the example of Hungary when it comes to prioritising giving aid to the most persecuted religion in the world. As Paul Coleman phrased in his article on Spiked, ‘The persecution of Christians has intensified, and the silence of Western leaders continues to be deafening. There is no international outcry. There are no grand foreign-policy initiatives. There are no emergency summits.’
Despite the fact that one of the most important aims of the United Nations is to protect human rights, the world organisation repeatedly turns a blind eye to persecuted Christians and doesn’t deal with their suffering as a priority. While the Trump administration made helping displaced Christians a top priority and stated they ‘will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups’, the Biden administration followed former President Barack Obama in not engaging in any specific action to help Christians in need. As reported in the aforementioned Hungarian Conservative article, after the latest brutal terrorist attack in Nigeria, the Biden administration turned a blind eye, while Hungary immediately offered help.
US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have neglected the sufferings of Nigerian Christians for two years now, and despite the outrage of several senators, religious freedom organisations, and experts, the country was not included in the annual ‘Country of Particular Concern’ list in 2021 or in 2022. This sent the alarming message that the administration not only seems to ignore the plight of Christians in Nigeria, but also denies that the level of religious freedom in Nigeria has reached that of ‘Particular Concern’.
On 20 May 2022, it also became questionable whether the European Union genuinely valued the protection of religious freedom,
as a vote to debate the European Commission’s position on Christian persecution was defeated in the European Parliament
in a vote of 231 in support, 244 against. The debate should have reflected specifically on the case of the brutal murder of a Nigerian teenager, Deborah Yabuku, who was stoned, beaten to death and burnt in Sokoto by her classmates after she thanked Jesus for helping her at an exam in a social media platform discussion group. As videos and images of her horrifying death travelled quickly through the local media, leading to widespread outrage, other radical Muslims started to attack churches, set them on fire and threatened other Christians with death after accusing them of blasphemy. After the vote, several MEPs were outraged by the Parliament’s refusal and shouted ‘shame on you’ across the plenary floor. Jean-Paul Van De Walle, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Brussels, said: ‘Europe should know Deborah Samuel Yakubu’s name. This opportunity to speak out against a brutal and unjust murder of an innocent teenage girl – based on a false accusation of “blasphemy”, no less – has been unforgivably lost. Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith, but it seems the EU has turned a blind eye.’
As Paul Coleman phrased in the Spiked article, ‘Responding to the global rise in Christian persecution is certainly not easy, but the Western world has not even taken the first step: acknowledging what is happening. Therefore, Western leaders remain spectators to the carnage.’ While Hungary reacted with compassion and help to the plight of the Christian communities, most Western leaders, the UN, the EU, and most other international institutions and the mainstream media have responded with indifference, which, as the Holocaust survivor and Noble Prize winner Professor Elie Wiesel wrote, is ‘the opposite of love’.