Hungarians to risk their lives protecting persecuted Christians

There is one country in Europe which is prepared to go into battle to protect Christians and boldly proclaim Christian values to a disbelieving western world. On 30 October, at the London opening of an exhibition called Cross-in-Fire, Tristan Azbej, the Hungarian Secretary of State for the Aid of Persecuted Christians, announced that Hungary will send 200 troops to the Sahel region in Africa to help fight terrorism — directed in particular against Christians. 

I had the privilege of meeting Mr Azbej at the Hungarian House in London, where the exhibition is taking place. He explained that the military initiative forms an essential part of the Hungary Helps programme, which, since 2017, has reached out to over 1.5 million people persecuted by terrorist or extremist groups in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, predominantly because of their Christian faith. Christians are, by a wide margin, the most persecuted religious demographic worldwide, with over 340 people killed and over 100 churches destroyed every month. 

Mr Asbej said: 

“The Hungary Helps initiative sends an important message of solidarity … a call for assistance to innocent people suffering persecution … This message also reflects the values Hungary prefers at a time when Western Christian civilisation denies its own cultural roots, trying to undermine all that arises from Christian teaching.”

In a statement issued on the same day, Hungary’s Minister of Defence, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, said that Hungary’s troops had the threefold aim of contributing “to halting migration, supporting anti-terrorism efforts and providing a secure background to a complex economic and humanitarian assistance package that Hungary is to take to the country [the Sahel region of Chad] in the framework of the Hungary Helps programme”.

His Excellency Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, also spoke at the event. He praised the Hungarian people for their compassion not only in providing financial grants for humanitarian activities but also for keeping in close touch with local faith-based organisations to make sure that these activities come to fruition.

Another speaker was Judit Varga, former Minister of Justice and Head of the Hungarian Parliament’s European Affairs Committee. She said she was proud of Hungary’s soldiers who would be risking their lives to help protect persecuted Christians. She said that Hungary is one of the few European nations with the courage to include Christianity in its constitution and fundamental law. She added that the Hungary Helps programme was a part of the migration policy upheld by Hungary, emphasising that the root causes of migration must be tackled, instead of exporting conflicts to Europe. She concluded:

“We Hungarians believe that every Christian community, organised around a church, is an island of survival and a burning torch of hope in the world.”

Hungary Helps finances humanitarian and reconstruction activities, managed by local faith-based organisations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Nigeria and many other countries. Grants made in these countries target the reconstruction of homes, community facilities, as well as the renovation of schools and healthcare infrastructures damaged by conflicts in which Christian communities are among the most targeted. It also provides fully funded scholarships for young people, which currently support more than 200 students from Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Armenia. 

I was introduced to Mr Asbej as a representative of the pro-life and pro-family group Voice of the Family, which fights against corrupting relationships and sex education in schools. I thanked the minister for his country’s prophetic leadership in protecting persecuted Christian families in the Middle East and Africa and in defending Christianity and Christian families in Hungary. He replied that the pro-life work of Voice of the Family was protecting the most vulnerable of all — unborn children. He also mentioned that Hungary’s education law forbids the promotion of gender ideology in schools.

As I walked out of the Hungarian House into Trafalgar Square on my way home, I felt encouraged. At a time of profound confusion about the intrinsic evils of adultery, abortion and homosexual acts — even in the highest levels of the Catholic Church — and of concomitant chaos in secular society, there is still a European nation willing to take up arms to protect Christian communities, which are not only the most at risk but also the best hope for the survival of western civilisation. Catholics seeking to restore the splendour of truth in the Church and in the world can learn a great deal from Hungary’s example and be inspired by it.