“The Government is helping persecuted Christians in several ways”, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog said at his annual hearing before Parliament’s Justice Committee on Tuesday. In addition to Church issues, the Minister also reported on the status of issues relating to non-governmental organisations and social inclusion.

Among concrete measures aimed at helping persecuted Christians, Mr. Balog highlighted the fact that the Government is financing the 6-month pharmaceuticals requirements of the Saint Joseph Hospital in Erbil, has provided funding to enable the full reconstruction of a village in Iraq, has supplemented the 80 million forints in donations collected by the Hungarian Catholic Church by a further 120 million forints to enable the construction of a school in Erbil, has launched a scholarship programme for young people from persecuted Christian families, and has established a special Deputy State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians.

With relation to cooperation with Hungary’s Churches, the Minister said that the number of children attending Church schools had doubled between 2010 and 2016, in addition to which interest in religious studies and moral philosophy lessons has also not wavered, with some 50% of students choosing this over ethics.
In addition, the Government is also funding the 2020 International Eucharistic Congress, which will be hosted by Hungary, he added.

With relation to achievements within the field of inclusion, Mr. Balog highlighted the fact that income poverty among the Roma minority has fallen to a greater extent than in non-Roma social groups living at a same level of poverty, thanks to the Government’s education and public work programmes. The rate of employment among the Roma minority increased from 26 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2015, the highest rate of growth in the European Union, he told the Committee.

The Minister also added that the number of Roma students attending university and college had more than doubled from a few hundred to over a thousand. Mr. Balog also reported on the fact that state funding for non-governmental organisations was increasing year-by-year, with a budget of 5.2 billion forints (EUR 16.6 million) earmarked for this purpose in next year’s budget, in addition to which the registration of NGOs has also been simplified.