Budapest (AINA) — The Hungarian government hosted the 2nd International Conference on Christian Persecution in Budapest on November, 26-28, 2019, shedding light on the plight of Christians around the world (AINA 2019-11-26). More than 600 people from 40 countries participated, among them patriarchs, cardinals, politicians, and Christians from across the globe.
According to recent reports every day 11 Christians are killed for religious reasons. It is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. Globally, there are 245 million persecuted Christians, which makes Christianity the most targeted religion on the planet.
The conference aims at putting political and social leaders in contact, while rebuilding the Christian communities in the Middle East and in Africa, where they suffer the most attacks.
Tristan Azbel, the Hungarian State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians, opened the conference. According to the Catholic News Agency, he has been a driving force behind “Hungary Helps”, a government initiative to provide international aid specifically to persecuted Christian communities in the Middle East. The “Hungary Helps” program was set up by the government of Prime Minister Victor Orbán in 2017 to aid Christian communities that are suffering persecution.
“We have 245 million reasons to be here. This is how many people are persecuted daily because of their Christian belief,” said Azbel in his opening remarks.
In his plenary address to the conference, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that “Europe can only be saved if it finds its way back to the source of its true values, to its Christian identity.”
“Europe is quiet,” he continued, “a mysterious force seals the lips of European politicians, and paralyses their arms” view of Christian persecution. He further pointed to an important aspect from Christian’s perspective, which is dealing with and treating the persecution of Christians purely as a humanitarian problem only. “This perspective fails to talk about what is the most important: not only individual human beings, not only individual communities, but an entire culture is under an organized and comprehensive attack.”
He also explained that his country’s Christian identity obliges it to help other Christian communities.
U.S. President Donald Trump sent a cordial message to the conference participants, which was read by his assistant Joe Grogan. President Trump expressed gratitude that Hungary shares his country’s dedication to religious liberty. “The United States has always vehemently defended the unalienable right to live and worship freely according to one’s conscience and beliefs,” Trump wrote.
President Trump said “Hungary’s State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and the Hungary Helps Program share America’s conviction in defending and advancing religious liberty,” while thanking them for organizing this gathering.
The conference was attended by many Church leaders from Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, including
- Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II
- Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East Mar Gewargis III
- Chaldean Catholic Archbishops of both Mosul and Erbil, Najeeb Michaeel and Bashar Warda
- Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Mosul
- Rev. Joseph Kassab, head of the Evangelical Community of Syria and Lebanon
- Archbishop Ephram Yousif Mansoor of Baghdad representing the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Joseph III Younan
- Bishop and Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of Damascus Armash Nalbandian.
Preliminary, off-the-record conversations were held on the so-called “day zero” of the conference of November 25 focused on the Islamic landscape in “a post-ISIS world,” and the role of NGOs in aiding persecuted communities.
“What brings us together is the cause of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and our search for the elements that bring about these dire situations for the most ancient Christian communities of the East,” Mar Gewargis III, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, said in a keynote speech.
In his keynote speech, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II, said,
the past five years, heads of churches and Christian religious leaders from the Middle East have been sounding the alarm concerning the existential threats against the presence and the future of Christians in the Middle East. We have been highlighting the persecution and the ethno-religious cleansing we are subjected to, mainly by armed groups, some of whom supported and funded by regional as well as international powers, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and other countries of the Middle East. However, our cries have not been heard by many. Very few tangible steps have been taken to counter this real threat to our existence as indigenous people in the land of our forefathers.
“What we have faced as Christians is nothing short of a genocide,” he continued. The Patriarch went on elaborating on the situation since the emergence of ISIS in the city of Mosul, “which caused the exodus of its entire Christian population who took refuge in the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plains.
After speaking on the situation of Syria and the destruction occurred since 2011, he concluded with some key conditions in order for the Christians in the Middle Easter countries to survive and thrive in their homeland:
- Freedom of religion should be guaranteed for all human beings; a legislative assurance that Christians, like all their compatriots, are able to worship freely and without fear.
- A secular state which is not based on any specific religion, but respects all religions and is able to protect all its citizens.
- Respect for human rights as well as the liberties which assures quality of life and dignity for all.
- The principle of equal citizenship should be upheld in our countries. Christians should not feel that they are second-class citizens; rather, they are equal with others in their rights and obligations.
- Dialogue on different levels is of paramount importance: a national dialogue where different groups assume their common responsibilities in promoting reconciliation and tolerance among the people.
To read the Patriarch’s full speech, please visit the AINA website.
Article republished by permission.