By Martina Moyski
The Hungarian government has pledged an initial 9 million forints (roughly $31,000 U.S.) in emergency aid to the survivors of the recent attacks on Christians and Christian churches in Sri Lanka.
"We're considering a larger donation to the Christian churches targeted by these horrific acts of terror," tweeted Tristan Azbej, deputy secretary of state for the assistance to persecuted Christians.
Tuned into the alarming numbers that, on average, 345 Christians are killed every month throughout the world, Hungary has taken a leadership role in establishing the State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and Hungary Helps, "unique in the Western World."
During a press conference in Budapest on April 16, Azbej announced the establishment of "The Hungary Helps Agency."
The Hungarian Government is offering 31K USD humanitarian relief to wounded and orphaned child victims of the #SriLankaBlasts. We’re considering a larger donation to the Christian churches targeted by these horrific acts of terror. Hungary stands with persecuted Christians! pic.twitter.com/LSgL93BMC6— HungaryHelps ن (@HUN4Christians) April 22, 2019
"The task of the new agency, which will be operating within the framework of the State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and the Realization of the Hungary Helps Program, will be to coordinate programs to help persecuted Christians," Azbej said.
The Hungary Helps initiative is providing nearly $1.7 million to a project aimed at supporting hospitals in Syria. Working alongside the AVSI Foundation in partnership with the Gemelli Foundation and the pontifical charity branch "Cor Unum," Hungary Helps supports the three Catholic hospitals in Syria (St. Louis Hospital in Aleppo, a French hospital and an Italian hospital, both in Damascus) which offer free medical care to the poor regardless of religious affiliation.
Azbej also told the press that the Hungarian government is "running programs in five Middle Eastern and two sub-Saharan countries" with "one of the most extensive programs[being] the reconstruction of the city of Tel Askuf in Northern Iraq."
In 2014, several hundred Christian families fled from Tel Askuf and many of the settlement's buildings were damaged or destroyed as a result of ISIS attacks. Azbej reported to the press that "the 580 million-forint donation provided by the Hungary government was enough to enable the Chaldean Catholic Church to rebuild the city, allowing families to return home" — in an albeit currently tenuous situation.
Hungary Helps and the Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians are also assisting Coptic Christians in Egypt, Christians in northeast Nigeria who have been savaged by Boko Haram groups who have pledged alliance to the Islamic State and have donated $450,000 to build a new school in Erbil (in the Kurdish inhabited area of Iraq) and $1.7 million to renovate 32 churches in Lebanon.
Commenting on the "uniqueness" of the Hungary Helps initiative, Azbej made clear that Hungary did not want to be perceived as "a lone defender of Christianity"; instead, he said that Hungary would like other governments to work together and to copy their initiative and take the interests of persecuted Christians to the United Nations, European Union and other national and international bodies.
In December 2018, Hungary and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate relief to Middle Eastern communities devastated by ISIS. According to the USAID website: "The objective of the MOU is to increase coordination to help communities in the Middle East recover from genocide and persecution by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."
In 2017, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán opened the first International Consultation on Christian Persecution hosted in Budapest with a hard-hitting speech calling on nations, particularly in Europe, to break the "shackles of political correctness," stand against Christian persecution and defend the roots of Christian civilization.
Orbán emphasized that Hungary's constitution recognizes "the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood" at the conference. Thus, Hungary Helps not only provides aid to Christians on site in Sri Lanka and elsewhere but it also espouses the return of persecuted Christians to their homelands as part of its mission.
Another aspect of the Hungary Helps campaign to support Christians and defend Christianity is embodied in the Budapest Declaration introduced at the conference. The declaration called on governments throughout the world to implement long-term solutions to end the persecution of Christians.
"It's not a political document imposed on others," Azbej said, "but a message to persecuted Christians, saying: You brothers and sisters are not alone, we're listening to you and we'll take your concerns to the international organizations."
Summarily, Azbej explained that the Budapest Declaration affirms that Budapest is a linguistic sanctuary where you can speak "freely and honestly" about Christian persecution throughout the world.
The recent peculiarly phrased tweets of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton referring to hundreds of murdered Sri Lankan Christians as "Easter worshippers" underscore the importance of the Budapest Declaration and speaking "freely and honestly" about Christian persecution.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka has thanked Hungary and Orbán for their support and gestures of solidarity to the Sri Lankan people.
In solidary with persecuted Christians throughout the world, Hungary Helps adds the Arabic letter ن (the equivalent of "n" and pronounced like "noon") to its Twitter handle: HungaryHelps ن.
The ن stands for Nazarene or Nasrani, Arabic words for Christian. As reported, Islamic State militants painted ن on Christian homes in northern Iraq indicating the inhabitants must convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or face execution.
Thus the letter ن, which symbolized ISIS persecution, has become a symbol of Christian unity.