Budapest, HUNGARY — Hungary’s State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians decried rampant global persecution of Christians in a high-powered conference in Budapest on Tuesday.
The chief of the Secretariat, Tristan Azbei, noted that some 44 Christians would violently lose their lives during the course of the four-day conference simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
“We have 245 million reasons to meet,” Mr. Azbei noted, “one for every Christian in the world who faces extreme persecution,” adding that “those are only the ones we know of.”
Azbei contrasted the unprecedented persecution facing Christians around the world in 2019 — the “greatest, best-kept secret” — with the “shameful silence of the West,” which turns a blind eye as if such persecution did not exist.
Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs, noted that “Christianophobia is the last acceptable form of discrimination in the world.”
“When I go to my monthly meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union,” Szijjártó said, they tell me not to mention “Christian communities” because it is “discriminatory.”
“On the other hand, the EU presses for its ‘Global Compact for Migration’ as if mass migration were a good to be encouraged,” Szijjártó said.
“But what about the right to national identity, to national security, to culture — fundamental rights never addressed by the Compact,” Szijjártó concluded, eliciting a spontaneous round of applause.
Adding to these reflections, Bishop István Szabo of the Hungarian Reformed Church said that little has changed in 2000 years of Christian persecution, which has its roots in the Roman Empire. “The primary goal of Christian persecution is to silence the message of the gospel,” the bishop observed, “to silence the testimony of Christians, but we must not be silent.”
For his part, Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, said that in the Middle East today, “Christians face an existential threat that jeopardizes their present and their future.”
“Religious cleansing in the Middle East aims at wiping out the indigenous Christian population in the land of our forefathers, the land where Christianity was born,” he said.
With continuous attacks on the Christian population, the enemies of Christ seek to send the message that “Christianity has no place in Syria,” the patriarch lamented. “But this is where Christianity began!”
Like Jesus before the Sanhedrin, Christians are moved to ask: “If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out. But if I speak the truth, why do you strike me?” he observed.
“Syria needs three things,” the patriarch concluded, “namely, a secular state respectful of all religions, respect for fundamental human rights and liberties, and the principle of equal citizenship for all.”
All the participants held up the example of what Hungary is doing for persecuted Christians around the world as a model for other governments and organizations to follow.
“Budapest feels called to be a citadel of Christian freedom,” Mr. Azbei said. “We Hungarians feel the need to protect Christians around the world. This is our vocation.”
Mr. Azbei also underscored the effective policy that Hungary has undertaken to assist Christians, helping them to stay in their homeland or return there, rather than encouraging them to empty the Middle East of Christians through irresponsible immigration programs.
Bishop Tamás Fabiny of the Evangelical Lutheran Church said that Hungary seeks to be faithful to its many martyrs, including the martyrs under Communism, by staying true to its Christian roots.
“We are not tearing down our crosses as is happening elsewhere, but putting new ones up,” he said, in an apparent reference to Communist China. “We are not converting our churches into discotheques and pubs but building new churches.”
This year’s international conference on Christian persecution, the second that the Hungarian government has hosted, has seen the participation of more than 700 people, approximately twice the number of the first conference in 2017.