19 January 2018

The Unspoken Religious Persecution

"Christianity has always been there in the Middle East. Many of us consider it as its homeland, whose benefits we have enjoyed for two thousand years. It is the “cradle of Christianity”. Yet, the risk is there that all this might disappear from the region. We have to face the real danger of representing values of out-dated times. I am afraid the day will come when our visitors come to see us as dummies in a museum, placed in old churches or monasteries."

Let us please also share our experiences. God had a reason to allow us to assemble here and ask for his blessing to this country, which has proved that its assistance is available for persecuted Christians, wherever in the world. This is a unique, special meeting that has been convened by a government under Christianity. We have attended conferences on religious persecution, organised by official authorities and sites. Yet, there was no mention of the word “Christianity” in those events. That is why we are expressly grateful for the Cross in the title of this conference.

May I hereby say “thank you” for helping us in the Middle East, where we continuously strive to rebuild our lives after being persecuted for our faith and religion. I would also like to express my gratitude for the one million euros that the Hungarian Government donated for the execution of humanitarian projects. It has been real help, indeed. Hundreds of students have benefited from it in our schools or universities. Refugees from Lebanese families have arrived to study for a year. Other Lebanese students could continue their studies with this aid. The amount served as a financial source for rebuilding many demolished houses. In Bakhdida, for example, at least 60 to 70 families could return to their homes. Thank you for that again.

Christianity has always been there in the Middle East. Many of us consider it as its homeland, whose benefits we have enjoyed for two thousand years. It is the “cradle of Christianity”. Yet, the risk is there that all this might disappear from the region. We have to face the real danger of representing values of out-dated times. I am afraid the day will come when our visitors come to see us as dummies in a museum, placed in old churches or monasteries. I fear that, in failure of the necessary steps, we may only become memories of the past in a very short time. Iraq has lost already 80 to 90 per cent of its Christian inhabitants, and the situation is not any better in Syria (with 40 to 45 per cent) or the Holy Land. The number of Christians in Turkey hardly counts a few thousand, although they used to constitute a large community. We seem to miss our footing – we are being uprooted as trees in the heaviest storm. And we all know how demanding it is to replant such a tree successfully, since the risk is always there that it might not survive. We are in the same situation.

Unfortunately, persecution afflicts the Church and religion, causing the death of millions of Christians. The number of Christians in Syria shrank to its one third due to the genocide at the beginning of the last century. We could restart and stand up again, together with the so-called Member States that we established. Yet, for the past years they have been under threat, even menacing our presence in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the entire Middle East.

We cannot forget about the tragedies of Iraq that His Excellence has also mentioned in his speech. Iraq recently had to face the tragedy of the beheading of many Christians. And still two more of our brothers are being kept hostage in Syria. The only thing we can do is to hope they are still alive. Nevertheless, the question remains: why is there no help from anyone to find them? I am sure some know about their location, but they are reluctant to share the information with us. I ask “why”’.

Do they think that their beheading will virtually make Christianity fall apart? Is this what they want? Do they want us to disperse? A Syrian town of 50,000 was occupied by Muslim fanatics who chased away its residents in a week’s time. They killed 48 people in one day. We have tried our best to convince these people to come back, but they do not even trust their neighbours. El-Kait was freed just to be run down by the extremists two weeks later. Over four thousand Christians (Catholic and Orthodox) lived there. Elian even had a monastery dating back to the 4th century. And these people were forced to sign a contract to pay “gisia” as hostages whose life has been spared to live there.

Some cannot endure this situation, and thus try to leave the country.

It should be recognised, though, that such ordeals do not only affect Christians. The entire region has had its share of pain too. This area had been inhabited even before Islam or Christianity. The peoples of Mesopotamia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, the Holy Land as well as Lebanon have long been living here. And now we are facing the terror of persecution. With a society opening up the road to fanaticism, people will only become more aggressive and hostile against those who do not share their beliefs and convictions.

The truth is virtually shocking: Christians die as martyrs for being loyal to their faith and religion. They either stay in the Middle East to die as martyrs, or try to move to another country, practically giving up their culture.

We often have the feeling that the Western world has turned away from us. They hardly care about our future, or at least they do not make as much effort as needed. When we go to European countries or to the United States to have our voice heard, doubts overcome our feelings: are we talking to people who do not care about our words, do they really listen to us, do they feel for us?

There are people and religious organisations who try to help us, but their number is very few. They are just a few, and their action is limited. If they really wish to help us, if we do matter to them, then they will not refuse to do something, as the Prime Minister has also highlighted. Actions speak louder than words, and we highly appreciate this. Hungary is the first country to take responsibility on the government level. It attempts to do something to change the situation so as to help people stay in their homeland.

Why does the UN Human Rights Organisation not address and deal with this problem? Why do they not help us? Why do they not enter our case, as people are in danger, into their agenda? We do have a list of animals and plants that are on the verge of extinction. And we do feel sometimes that our group of people is simply inferior in importance to such species. These might be extremely painful words, and please take my apologies for being so harsh.

Yet, even the conventions on human rights seem to fail in our cases. We are being massacred by groups that are sometimes supported by Western powers. Whatever name we may call them, still they will be the same. And they do this on an international stage.

We have the mission to bring about changes in these countries. But the rest of the world seems to disregard the ordeals that Christians have to go through.

My dear brothers and sisters, we wish to stay where we were born. We do not want to leave our homeland, which was built by our ancestors. We wish to follow the Christian religion where we were baptised, in Antioch. Anyway, this was the place to first hear the word “Christian”. We want to stay there, and the international community must help us in our endeavours. Otherwise, we will have to leave. We will have to leave unless countries like Hungary make the necessary efforts, and provide us with assistance in our children’s education, in rebuilding our homes, in creating jobs. It is particularly important for the youth. Above all, however, political stability needs to be established for staying. This calls for strong governments, and strong armed forces.

Upon revising the fundamental laws, special attention shall be paid to deleting chapters from the Constitutions that are aimed against Christianity. Statehood should be separated from Christian religion or beliefs so as to eliminate negative discrimination.

We cannot ignore the Hungarian greeting Isten hozta” (God has brought you here). And we do have the feeling that we are welcomed by the love of God here, among our friends. Let me thank the Hungarian government for this. In our prayers we will ask for Hungary’s blessing, to let its people live in harmony and unity, in happiness and welfare. May God bless Hungary! Thank you very much!






HUNGARIAN REVIEW is published by BL Nonprofit Kft.
It is an affiliate of the bi-monthly journal Magyar Szemle, published since 1991
Publisher: Gyula Kodolányi
Editor-in-Chief: Gyula Kodolányi
Editorial Manager: Ildikó Geiger
Editorial office: Budapest, 1067, Eötvös u. 24., HUNGARY
E-mail: hungarianreview[at]hungarianreview[dot]com
Online edition: www.hungarianreview.com

Genereal terms and conditions