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Officials with both countries agreed last week in Budapest to work together to support Christians and other religious groups who are persecuted because of their beliefs. Hungary had already set the gold standard, instituting its one-of-a-kind Hungary Helps initiative designed to help persecuted Christians all over the world.
Tristan Azbej, Hungarian minister of state for helping persecuted Christians, said at a press conference after signing the agreement that helping the persecuted is "a moral duty" that balances helping others while helping those at home. The primary duty of both countries is to take care of their own citizens, but their Christian roots require them to help victims of religious persecution in other parts of the world, Azbej said.
Polish deputy minister Pawel Jabłoński concurred. "The right to practice and profess one's beliefs is a basic human right," Jabłoński said. "It is the task of countries like Poland and Hungary to protect this right, in line with Christian and humanistic values that guide our policies."
Both officials agreed to specific standards.
Funds must be given directly to affected communities and people in need rather than being filtered through international organizations, the Hungarian diplomat said. It is important "not to forget those whom large international aid organizations have forgotten."
"The needs of the weakest are the main priority of Polish Aid," Azbej's Polish counterpart added. "Particular support should be provided to the most vulnerable: children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities who suffer the most from humanitarian crises."
Both men emphasized that action, not merely words, is in order. Azbej emphasized that both countries are committed to "specific and swift action," something prohibited as part of involvement with big international organizations. Jabłoński drew attention to universal human rights, including freedom of religion.
Azbej's senior advisor András Stefanovszky spoke to Church Militant about how Hungary Helps meets these goals.
For example, Stefanovszky confirmed that his program donated over $1 million to the Maronite Church community in Beirut immediately upon hearing of the deadly blast in that city earlier this month.
The senior advisor said Hungary's efforts were facilitated by the patriarch of Antioch, Cdl. Béchara Boutros Raï, who directed the funds to those in immediate need.
He detailed how Hungary's program has sent millions of dollars to victims of religious persecution in Lebanon alone since 2017. Examples include the:
Last year Azbej referred to Hungary's unique role in helping those who are suffering and dying for their faith. At the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., introducing himself, he said: "My title is state secretary for the aid of persecuted Christians. I believe I am the only government official in the world with this title."
Now Azbej is celebrating the concordat with Poland. Recalling the strong historical ties binding the two countries, he tweeted, "Hungary & Poland: brothers in arms for centuries. I have signed a Memorandum with my Polish colleague, Minister @paweljablonski today to join our efforts to help the victims of humanitarian crises and religious persecution."
Jabłoński, too, is celebrating and stressed the agreement could mark the beginning of even closer Hungarian-Polish cooperation. "Hungary and Poland are not only partners, but also friends. They profess common values and they share similar views on many issues, including the need to help the persecuted," he said.
Both diplomats expressed hope other countries will join them in tending to the great needs of their persecuted brethren.