“American-Hungarian relations are developing well”, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog said quoting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a statement to Hungarian news agency MTI after having met and spoken to him following a prayer breakfast on Thursday.

Mr. Balog and his delegation have been on an official four-day visit to the American capital since Tuesday, where the Minister has held talks with American legislators, attended the traditional American National Prayer Breakfast, and opened an exhibition entitled “In Cross-fire” on persecuted Christians in the Middle East at the Hungarian Embassy.

The Minister issued a statement to MTI following the opening of the exhibition.

Mr. Balog said that close and tangible cooperation had developed between Washington and Budapest with relation to assisting persecuted Christians in the Middle East. “All the things that Hungary is doing for persecuted Christians has attracted the attention of the United States Government”, he added.

“Hungary has undertaken to assist Christians, but it is not giving them money via large international organisations, but is visiting those concrete communities that are suffering in the Middle East and which want to remain in place and do not want to become refugees”, he said, explaining that many people are living in refugee camps close to their homelands and are maintaining their faith, their traditions and their culture.

“This Hungarian standpoint on providing aid has generated a high level of interest, not least because two thirds, or perhaps four fifths of people being persecuted around the world are Christian”, he added.

“We have been contacted by concrete American organisations asking us to share our experiences”, the Minister highlighted. Mr. Balog mentioned development organisation USAID, who’s recently appointed new director, Mark Green, he also met in Washington.

The Minister met with the members and leaders of the largest lobby group for the protection of Christians, in addition to which he held talks with conservative politician and former Governor of Kansas Sam Brownback, who was recently appointed as the United States Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. At the meeting, the parties discussed expected cooperation on concrete issues. “He was particularly interested in our experiences in the Middle East”, Mr. Balog said.

The Minister also held a meeting with the U.S. legislators who recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to protest about the fact that the State Department was planning to launch a tender to fund the Hungarian press.

“These legislators regarded the tender as outrageous in view of the fact that they have personal experience with regard to the fact that there is absolutely no problem with freedom of the press in Hungary”, Mr. Balog said, summarising the experiences of the meeting.

The politicians also discussed how to give new impetus to American-Hungarian relations and promised to provide all possible assistance in this regard, the Minister said, adding that a delegation of American Congressmen was also planning to visit Budapest.

“We are happy about this, because if someone does not gain their information from the papers, but on site for instance, then they will immediately see that Hungary is in fact a country that is growing and gaining strength”, Mr. Balog emphasised.

Referring to the fact that the Hungarian delegation had attended the Prayer Breakfast, the Minister felt it important to stress that he is proud that politicians from various Hungarian parties are even capable of helping each other during an election campaign.

“The National Prayer Group has been launched in Hungary and we held the first National Prayer Breakfast last year, and this is a message to Hungary that some things are more important than party political antagonisms”, Mr. Balog said.

The Hungarian delegation includes Gábor Staudt (Jobbik), Lászó Teleki (MSZP) and Gergely Bárándy (KDNP).

“In America, the National Prayer Breakfast is an important event for politicians”, the Minister explained.

“It is attended by all politicians who respect American values. This gave me an opportunity to exchange a few words on American-Hungarian relations with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who confirmed that he feels relations are developing well and that the new appointments within the State Department are leading to a change in the administration’s approach to Hungary”, Mr. Balog stressed in his statement to MTI. “America has time, Hungary should have too”, the Minister said, quoting the head of the United States diplomatic service.

On Friday, Mr. Balog will be holding talks with Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney in the White House.

(Ministry of Human Capacities/MTI)