Tristan Azbej, Deputy Secretary of State for the Aid of Persecuted Christians from the Prime Minister’s Office, attended a conference in Frascati, near Rome, from 23rd to 26th of August, to which important Catholic legislators of the world had been invited. On 22nd of August, the conferees were first greeted by Pope Francis who later addressed them in the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican. The following article is a summary of the interview conducted by László Vértesaljai SJ of Vatican Radio with the Hungarian Deputy Secretary of State.
Deputy State Secretary Tristan Azbej told Vatican Radio that the ‘Hungary Helps’ programme combines all of the international humanitarian and development activities of Hungary. This programme can be divided into three areas:
- The first area is a humanitarian aid programme where Hungary plays its part by helping people in need around the world.
- The second area concerns migration policy: Hungary is strongly in favour of people staying put and trying to prosper in their own homeland – instead of migrating.
- The third area concerns religious freedom. Few people know that today Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.
The Deputy State Secretary explained that the Hungarian government decided that one of the main priorities of the “Hungary Helps” programme would be to specifically aid Christians in the world. For this very purpose, the Deputy State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians was created and now belongs to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Tiristan Azbej noted that the project is gaining fame given the concrete results obtained so far. He explained that one of the most important projects was the reconstruction of the Iraqi settlement Tell-Askuf on the Ninive plateau, which had been occupied by the Islamic State terrorists in 2014. That event caused the deportation of about 1,300 Christian and the destruction of 900 buildings. Hungary has since rebuilt the town investing two million euros into the project. Consequently, around 1,000 families have been able to move back to their communities.
This and other projects was the reason why the United States announced in November last year that they would launch a similar programme “following the Hungarian example.”
“Sadly, some people often misunderstand our programme as if it were a ‘Christian Kulturkampf.’ In reality, it is merely trying to help people who are genuinely persecuted because of their religion and are often also threatened by genocide. (Christian Kulturkampf is a cultural struggle, a social conflict favouring religious influence by the proper authorities of the State).
The Deputy State Secretary went on to say: “The first of our three programmes is humanitarian emergency aid, which is mostly about saving human lives. During the Syrian and Iraqi military conflicts, we were trying to help the so-called internal refugees survive in the region. He went on: “The Tel Askuf programme is a good example of the second programme offered which is the post-conflict reconstruction of human settlements and buildings. We are also rebuilding schools, hospitals and churches in Iraq, Syria and in Nigeria that were destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorist organisation. And, the third type of programme aims to help the future of persecuted and discriminated against Christian communities by providing education for young people from these regions, under a specific scholarship program. Since September of this year, two hundred young people are studying at Hungarian universities, after which, having completed their studies, they can return to their own communities and help rebuild them.”
“Christians in those areas feel grateful for the compassion of the Hungarian people,” said Tiristan Azbej. He later went on to say that “we should [also] be thankful to them as they strongly stick to preserving their Christian roots in the midst of hard persecution.”
It emerged during the interview that the “Hungary Helps” programme does not only aid persecuted Christians, but also supports other communities living with them. The drug rehabilitation programme of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq, helps all the Yazidi, Christian and Muslim refugee patients that come for aid.
Concluding, Tristan Azbej pointed out that presently, in Europe the Hungarian government is the only one that has launched a specific programme to aid persecuted Christians. However, two months ago the Polish and Hungarian governments announced a joint Polish-Hungarian project would be launched in Syria for the rebuilding and furnishing of an orphanage at an Orthodox church in Syria.
Hungarian people can choose to participate in this projects with prayer, words and deeds. Prayer comes first, then you may stand up for persecuted Christians in any public forum, and you can also sign up for voluntary work.
Source: Vatican News