The Hungarian government has called together key Christian leaders from the Middle East for a three-day conference in Budapest to discuss targeted assistance to persecuted Christians, in which leaders expressed their disappointment in President Trump’s failure to live up to campaign promises on their behalf.
In a variable “who’s who” of Christian pastors and prelates from the Middle East, primarily Syria and Iraq, Hungarian ministers, including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, got an earful from bishops, archbishops and patriarchs, who recounted the dire situation of the dwindling Christian population in the Middle East. Christians run the real risk of becoming nothing more than a “museum piece,” according to Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, supreme head of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Speaking on behalf of Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil showered praise on the Hungarian government for its effective assistance to Middle East Christians, while manifesting his disappointment with the Trump administration, a sentiment that was echoed throughout the conference.
Several of the Christian leaders suggested that President Trump had failed to honor his campaign promise to help and protect Christians in the Middle East victimized by jihadists, noting that despite the President’s encouraging words, no aid had been forthcoming.
“My thanks go especially to the government of Hungary for their grants of millions of dollars to allow Iraqi Christians to return to their homes,” Warda said, where “Muslim radicals have tried to wipe out all remembrance of Christianity.”
While underscoring the “unique moral responsibility of the United States” to come to the aid of Iraqi Christians, Warda called for “fully committed” political support from America, something that has been lacking thus far.
Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said that Christians suffering in the Middle East feel “abandoned by the West,” despite the predominance of Christians in countries like the United States. “Very people listen to us or feel sympathy for us,” he said.
“While many animals and plants get put on lists of endangered species and receive protection, that hasn’t happened with us,” he said.
His Beatitude Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church, noted that Christians had been living where they are now in the Middle East for six centuries before the arrival of the Muslims.
“Christians are the indigenous peoples of the Middle East,” he said. “Where is the outcry? Elsewhere, indigenous peoples are given protection, even privileges, yet there is nothing for the Christians.”
Last year, the Hungarian government established a Deputy State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians, making it the only nation in the world with a department of this nature. So far, the new secretariat has sent assistance of more than 4 million euros to rebuild homes, churches and schools so that Christians can stay in their homes in the Middle East. They have also granted dozens of scholarships to Christian students in Africa and the Middle East who lost everything to militant Islamic terror groups.
In his address to the assembly of prelates, officials and diplomats, Prime Minister Orbán said that Hungary had taken the opposite approach from that of the European Union. “They want to bring people here,” Orbán declared. “We are helping them to stay where they are.”
The Hungarian government has been channeling the fund directly to Christian leaders and organizations on the ground in the Middle East, who best know how to make the most of the financing for the good of their people.
“All of us, Protestants, Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Coptic Christians—we face this persecution together,” Orbán said, while noting that around the globe a Christian is killed every five minutes for their faith.
“We need to get beyond political correctness and endless discussions on human rights to do something real for our brothers and sisters,” he said.
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