Hungary is holding its 2nd International Conference on Christian Persecution 2019 in Budapest this week to keep a bright light shining on the plight of Christians around the world.
Conference participants started filing into Budapest Monday, even though the speeches and events do not officially begin until Tuesday morning, and the patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, led the prayer before lunch in Aramaic.
Keynote speakers for the event include Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán; Nigerian Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah; and Gewargis III, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. Tristan Azbej, Hungary’s state secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians, and Rev. Joseph Kassab, head of the Evangelical Community of Syria and Lebanon, are also conference speakers.
The Orbán government has been on the front lines of aid to persecuted Christians around the world, sending financial and logistical assistance so that Christians are not forced to migrate from their lands for economic reasons.
This summer, Mr. Azbej lamented a “wall of silence” that has been erected around the problem of Christian persecution, despite the enormity of the problem on a global scale.
Speaking at the 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted by the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, Azbej explained why Hungary has focused attention on Christian persecution.
The Hungarian government has set up the aid program because “Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world” and “Hungary is a Christian nation,” Mr. Azbej said in his Twitter post.
“My title is State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians. I believe I am the only government official in the world with this title,” Azbej began in his July 16 address to the Ministerial, eliciting spontaneous applause.
“We are a Christian nation. We are proud to say that,” he said. “There are not many European countries where politicians are allowed to say such a thing.”
“Currently in the world Christianity is the most persecuted religion. Eighty percent of the people who are persecuted for their faith in the world are Christians,” he added.
“So, this is why we have set up a program to aid them. But I have to clarify here that we are not only providing direct assistance to Christians; that wouldn’t be very Christian like, would it?” he said. “So, our support for Christians is explicit but not exclusive.”
“We have seen that there is a neglect, there is a wall of silence built around this problem,” Azbej noted.
“In the international organizations we are trying to raise awareness and at the same time we have started an aid program, a humanitarian and reconstruction program, which has a very unique character of providing aid directly to the communities,” he said.
The Budapest conference will run from November 23-26.