The Hungarian and Italian governments plan cooperation to help persecuted Christians
"In crisis zones, the most effective, humane, and logical solution is to give the people living there the opportunity to stay or return home," emphasized Tristan Azbej at the conference where he presented the African results of the Hungary Helps program to representatives of the Vatican.
Tristan Azbej, the State Secretary responsible for aiding persecuted Christians and for the implementation of the Hungary Helps Program, had discussions with Davide Dionisi, a special envoy appointed this year by the Roman government, who is responsible for the protection of religious freedom and aiding persecuted Christians. The State Secretary pointed out that both governments consider the issue of religious freedom important. At the same time, the world often refuses to acknowledge that Christians represent the world’s largest persecuted religious group. He said that they plan to initiate cooperation between Budapest and Rome, first to understand how they can represent the common cause in international organizations and then how they can effectively help persecuted Christian communities in Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of the world.
In his speech, Tristan Azbej emphasized that in Africa, some see opportunity while others see danger. He added that the economic crisis, successive military coups and conflicts, shortages of food and water, mass emigration, and the spread of extreme political and religious views have turned Africa into a huge crisis zone. However, due to the presence of Christian churches, it is not excluded that within a few decades, Christian Africa will evangelize the faith-poor Europe.
“We are a small country, and we don’t think we can save the whole world, but we can be proud of the work we have done. Saving even a single life counts. The Hungarian state’s more than a thousand-year-old Christian history, which itself has experienced persecution and foreign occupation, and sacrificed life against it.”
The Hungary Helps Program, operating since 2016, has been present in fifty countries with three hundred programs, helping more than 1.5 million people so they don’t have to leave their homeland or can return home. There are 300 million people in the world persecuted for their Christian faith, and its ‘most horrific face’ is shown in Africa, where every fifth Christian is persecuted. He emphasized that in Nigeria last year, more than 5000 Christians were killed, which is 89 per cent of Christians killed for their faith in the world in 2022. Hungary Helps is present in 22 African countries with 120 projects, and 80 African students study at Hungarian universities with scholarships.
Tristan Azbej explained they provide humanitarian assistance, including aid to the wounded and the families of the murdered in restarting their lives, rebuilding destroyed settlements, schools, reutilizing devastated, burnt agricultural areas with seeds, water, increasing livestock, and helping internally displaced people. He stated that the secret of Hungary Helps lies in cooperation with local churches. The program works with Catholic and Protestant churches, and the help affects not only Christians but also the entire communities living with them.
The State Secretary mentioned the rebuilt schools in Nigeria, the clinics opened in rural areas of South Africa, the rehabilitation of poor and drug-addicted youth in Kenya, solar power generation in Ghana, aiding the return of young people who suffered mental and physical trauma and emigrated to Ethiopia.
“Hungary Helps has proven that the most effective, humane, and logical solution to crises is to offer the affected people the opportunity to stay or return to their homeland”‘ he said.
The State Secretary mentioned among the latest projects the aid intended for the Sahel region, where the humanitarian tragedy can be so great that it will have an impact in Europe, as it can trigger mass migration. He highlighted that the parliament recently decided that a 200-strong Hungarian military mission could serve in the future in Chad to curb migration and terrorism.
“We believe that African crises need African solutions,” he emphasized.
The conference “Hungary Helps Africa – focusing on the vulnerable group of Christians” was held at the Vatican, in the Palazzo Cesi. On behalf of the Holy See, Nigerian Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, thanked the Hungarian government and the Hungarian people for the assistance provided in many parts of the world, including Christians. He quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” saying that while some people and countries can bend down to those in need, others turn away in their busy lives. Hungary does not turn away and contributes to improving relations between African countries and the West, which are still stamped by the history of colonization and slave trade.
The archbishop added that the Pope often emphasizes that today’s ideological colonization is more dangerous because it seeks to force poor countries to accept policies that are against their interests in exchange for humanitarian aid. ‘Hungary helps without dictating ideology; this is the spirit of the fraternity encyclical, this is what Pope Francis proclaims,’ he stated.
The Hungary Helps programs were presented by Alfred Agyenta, Bishop of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese in Ghana, and Felicien Ntambue Kasembe, Bishop of Kabinda in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.