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The military success against the Islamic State is only one side of the coin – says the Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó while in Washington DC

Szijjarto Peter

The Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó participated at the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, held last week in Washington DC. In his remarks on Thursday, he said it was very “important to represent Hungary at this conference” mentioning that he was “representing a country that has been actively involved in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.” He went on to say that “Hungary has two hundred troops on the ground and is currently tasked with advising and assisting in a training mission, and in giving aid to the local Christian communities.”

During his address, Péter Szijjártó stated: “We are making progress in the war against the Islamic State, but there are however two sides to every coin. The international community tends to forget about the other side, about the question of follow up” – he added.  “What is going to happen after military action is concluded? How do we achieve stability in the conflicted regions such as the Middle East?”

The Minister insisted that now was not the time to rest and much work remained undone. He explained that although ISIS had lost most of its territories, it keeps on developing new strategies. “Now they carry out their attacks through their “sleeping cells” and their so-called “lone actors,” he said.  

It is also of utmost importance that Christian communities return to their homes. “We are fully aware that forcing the Islamic State out of their territories is not enough: we also need to make sure that the people who lived there earlier and were forced to flee from the terrorists, can return. If this does not come about then we need to find out who will populate these empty spaces and what new challenges the new incumbents will bring” –added the Minister.

Szijjártó then touched on the topic of the many Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith. Radical Islamic terrorist organisations want to eradicate Christians from the places where they have lived for centuries — even millennia.  80% of those persecuted for their religion are Christians. Christianity is, therefore, the most persecuted religion on the face of the earth.

“Not only should Christian countries stand up for persecuted Christians; it is also the responsibility of the entire international community to draw attention to their plight. Who should stand up for Christians if not Christian countries?” he asked.

He went on to state that we must break down the barriers of “political correctness” that have been created and talk about the issue publicly.

“I do not know if I am alone, or perhaps there are others in the room who feel that a false narrative has been created; a belief that because there are so many Christians around the world, any anti-Christian activities should be subtly allowed as an acceptable form of discrimination.  I believe this is a very dangerous narrative against which we have to fight,” he said.

The silence of the international community is hypocrisy

“There is a tendency to talk about the persecution of religious minorities in general without mentioning the largest number of persecuted groups – the Christians. If we look at international organisations’ comments about persecution, we will find that very few address the matter of the protection of persecuted Christian communities” – said Szíjjártó. 

“It is indispensable that we speak the truth” – stated the Minister. “These organisations have to realise that if they take themselves seriously when they speak about multiculturalism — their much-beloved core value, then they have to accept that Christianity forms part of that,” he said.

Péter Szíjjártó also talked about the aid given to persecuted Christians. He spoke about the Hungarian Government’s relief actions calling them “very successful” informing participants that the Hungarian Government has established a completely separate governmental organisation that monitors the situation of persecuted Christian communities all over the world. In the form of a state secretariat, the body alerts the international community when it discovers injustices and also provides material and humanitarian support where there are real needs.   

The Minister for Foreign Affairs also spoke about the ‘Hungary Helps Programme. The initiative directs financial aid to communities in need and has already provided help at a local level to the Syrian Orthodox church and the Catholic Church. The programme so far has built hospitals and schools in the Middle East and given almost two million US dollars to Telskuf, one of the devastated cities in Iraq, in order to rebuild their ruined dwellings. More than one thousand Christians could return to their homes as a result.

“Thanks to Hungary Helps Programme, we reconstructed thirty-three churches in Lebanon so that the Christian community could practice their faith with dignity. We are currently erecting a school in cooperation with the Greek Catholic Diocese in Aleppo, Syria and we have also commenced our ‘Scholarship Programme for Persecuted Christians.’ This means that young people who were forced to leave their homes can study in Hungary and obtain a degree. This education will give them the skills, knowledge and competitive edge so that they can return home and rebuild a future for their communities.

Closing his remarks, Péter Szijjártó underlined that the Hungarian Government has prioritised its determination to continue helping persecuted Christians into the future.

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