The preservation of the fundamental values, worldview and culture of Christianity is a question of the preservation of democracy and diversity all at once, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog said on Thursday in Budapest at the International Consultation on Christian Persecution.

The Minister highlighted: getting to know more about the suffering of Christians in the Middle-East and the stance taken by the Hungarian Government in their interest is also a self-interest as it creates an opportunity for renewing the Christian foundations of Europe. Their example helps to appreciate „the true value” of the fact that „we may live freely” the Christian way of life, and what the preservation of our faith means.

DownloadPhoto: Gergely Botár/

The Minister reiterated: the beheaded body of Syrian Orthodox parish priest Paulos Iskander for whom his kidnappers demanded a ransom of USD 350 thousand was found in Mosul 11 years ago. His death opened yet another chapter in the persecution of Christians, and it has since become a typical story.

The era of the disintegration of the diverse Middle-East set in in the wake of wars, and it is characterised by desecrated churches set on fire, destroyed Christian communities, killed and tortured people and families driven away from their homes, the Minister said.

DownloadPhoto: Gergely Botár/

Mr Balog also spoke about the prevalence of a spiritual and intellectual vacuum in European Christian communities which suffer from self-hatred and remain shyly silent about their faith. They do not speak out when Christians are persecuted elsewhere in the world.

He said: “a person or community which fails to identify themselves, which conceals who they actually are and hides behind some kind of ideological neutrality is much more of a threat to another person or community”.

András Veres, President of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference stressed in his welcome speech: it is an experience of two thousand years that persecution does not weaken, but in actual fact makes the church of Christ stronger.

He quoted St. John Paul II who believed that at the end of the second millennium, the church became the church of martyrs once again. He added: “we therefore hope that the current wave of persecution in the Middle-East, in Africa, in Europe and throughout the world, too, will eventually lead to the strengthening of the church yet again”. The Catholic bishop said that we, Hungarians can particularly empathise with persecuted Christians as the Tartar invasion, and later the Turkish and Soviet occupations put our Christian existence to the test on three distinct occasions.

He pointed out: we are also capable of empathising because the anti-Christian manifestations which have also emerged in Europe “fill us with fear”. He remarked that he does not just mean acts involving physical violence, but also “phenomena mocking the Christian faith which have been spreading in Europe for quite a few years now”.

According to the Catholic bishop, every bloody persecution began similarly during the course of history. “At this point in time, the displaying and wearing of religious symbols is only banned and religious sentiments are subjected to mockery, or the media which like to present themselves as independent launch coordinated, all-out attacks against those who share a view that is different from theirs by preaching their set of religious values, but this behaviour may take the form of bloody hatred sooner or later”.

István Szabó, Ministerial President of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in Hungary said: “we, Central-Europeans have extensive experience about persecution, but we have gained even more extensive experience about the unfailing mercy of God”.

The Reformed bishop stressed the correlation between testimony and martyrdom. As he said, without testimony for Jesus, there is no Christianity and there is no church, and there are situations when the serious consequence of this testimony is that we have to carry the cross as Jesus did.

Bashar Matti Warda, Archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon stressed that international help is required in order to enable Christians driven away from their homes to return, and security must be guaranteed as Christians are extremely scared of yet another armed conflict. He highlighted the role of education which would help conquer religious fanaticism.

Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch said: if Christians are driven away from the Middle-East, society will lose its diversity, fanaticism will prevail, and people will become even more hostile towards those who do not share their faith and conviction. He stressed: they often feel that they have been let down by western countries. At the same time, Hungary was the first to have taken responsibility for them at government level.

Ignatius Joseph III Yonan, Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch expressed his thanks to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Government for proving continuously that they are sincerely concerned for the lives of Christians in the Middle-East. He also said thanks to Pope Francis for drawing attention to the persecution of Christians on an international level as well, but he saw no evidence of assistance coming from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Russia, China or the UN, and took the view that the ancient civilisation, on the foundations of which European Christian culture came into being, has been let down.

Jan Figel, EU Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion said: ignorance, indifference and fear are responsible for the negative situation concerning Christianity, and they also prevent action. Jan Figel described the programme Hungary Helps as an outstanding initiative, and pointed out that the motto “Hungary helps” should be changed to “Central-Europe helps”.

According to György Hölvényi, Co-Chair of the European People’s Party Interreligious Dialogue Group, Europe has particular responsibility for protecting Christians.

He stressed: persecuted Christians ask for help, rather than to be let in. European politics, however, does not understand this message correctly. The right to return home and to stay in one’s native land must be guaranteed, he stated.