Recently I was having lunch with the editor of a national weekly periodical. I happened to mention that only one nation on earth has a government ministry dedicated to helping persecuted Christians.
He had no idea such a thing existed — and was impressed that a sovereign nation in the 21st century would have the courage to create something so profoundly important, yet so politically incorrect in the ever-more-secular world of national government.
That courageous nation is Hungary, which in October 2016 created — within the Ministry of Human Capacities — the Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians. There were two reasons for its creation: the worsening persecution of Christians all over the world, but particularly in the Middle East; and the direct appeal by church leaders in the Middle East to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
These leaders, including patriarchs from Iraq and Syria, were attending the annual International Catholic Legislator’s Network in Frascati, Italy. Orban, a Calvinist, is one of the only non-Catholic politicians to regularly attend the gathering. Prime Minister Orban was so moved by the suffering of the Christians of the Middle East that he created the new government ministry within two months of the appeal.
The ministry has two main objectives: to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians, a fact many governments seem to want to ignore or find unimportant; and to provide humanitarian aid to the communities to help them remain and return to their ancient homelands.
Instead of just talking about the persecution through this ministry, the Hungarian government has given $2.5 million to the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq to rebuild the ancient Christian town of Telsqof — and to support the St. Joseph’s Medical Clinic in Erbil, which is continuing to treat refugees driven out by ISIS.
Another $2 million has been given to help the Syriac Catholic and Orthodox churches in their refugee assistance. And still another example of the government’s making a huge practical difference is the scholarship program that’s been set up to help young Christian refugees. Initially 100 young people will be trained in Hungary, with all expenses paid, to receive higher education in engineering, medicine, economics, IT or the humanities; they will then be able to return to rebuild their country.
Why the existence, and the achievements, of this extraordinary government ministry are not better known is a question worth examining. Hungary, and indeed the other three members of the “Visegrad Group” — Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia — are regularly lambasted by the European Union and the Western media, which is the unfailing propaganda arm of the secular European mindset.
Called “fascist” or “extreme right” merely for suggesting that their countries’ identities will be changed beyond recognition if mass migration continues, they have had the effrontery to suggest their countries are Christian and that they do not wish them to become Muslim nations.
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Orban, who seems to draw the most ire from the multiculturalists happy to see the burka and Sharia law replace the cross and religious freedom, has been perhaps the strongest defender of the Christian identity of his nation. He warned recently that the identity of Europe is “under threat” from mass Muslim migration, which he called the “Trojan horse of terrorism.”
Although it would make the leaders of France, Belgium, Germany and the U.K. distinctly uncomfortable, it is worth asking: How many terrorist attacks have there been in the countries of the “Visegrad Group”?
Surely it is not a coincidence that Hungary, and the other Eastern European nations that suffered for decades under the murderous oppression of atheistic communism, have emerged into the light of freedom with a new appreciation for their religious and Christian heritage and an understandable and commendable renewed national pride. To celebrate one’s national story is not “right-wing” — it is both beautiful and necessary. The self-loathing and “guilt” of the West will allow another aggressive and predatory culture ample opportunity to create a new narrative.
Rather than an NGO or the increasingly discredited United Nations — which recently ran up a $9.5 million tab at the Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus, Syria — the initiative of the Hungarian government to create a ministry for persecuted Christians shows that a government with a conscience can make a huge practical difference.
Staff at the ministry told me that because Hungary is a Christian country, it believes it has a “moral obligation” to raise awareness of the persecution and to bring together the concerned who wish to help. This October in Budapest, Hungary will host the first “World Consultation on Christian Persecution” — the first time a government, rather than a charity or agency, will gather leaders and agencies together to find practical ways to deal with what the Hungarian government considers “one of the most concerning issues of our time.”
Is it too much to hope that another nation with profoundly Judeo-Christian roots and indeed the most Christian nation on earth — the United States — can humbly follow the lead of brave Hungary? Can the U.S. create an agency, not just for “religious freedom,” but for the most persecuted religion on earth, according to Pope Francis — and bypass bloated international agencies to directly help Christians on the ground?
Fr. Benedict Kiely is a Catholic priest and founder of Nasarean.org, which is helping the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.