The Hungarian Bishops have bashed a Budapest mayor for suggesting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party are “frightening white nationalists”.

Driving the news

Last weekend, Mayor of Erzsébetváros Péter Niedermüller, of the centre-left opposition Democratic Coalition (DK), made headlines after he accused Orbán and Fidesz of pushing a “frightening”, hate-filled “nationalist” racism on Hungarian society.

“If we look at what remains if you strip away these hated delineations that we have listed [the work of Orbán and Fidesz]: non-Hungarians, others, migrants, Roma, I don’t know what, then there is this frightening formation left in the middle: white, Christian, heterosexual men – and there are of course (some) women among them”, Niedermüller observed.

“That’s the family concept. And this is terrible, because if we look at what the so-called white nationalists are made up of all over the world: that’s it…”, the DK politician denounced.

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Newspaper Magyar Hang later drew attention to Niedermüller’s criticisms of Orbán and Fidesz, giving the politician the chance to explain that the notion that he finds “the group of white, Christian heterosexual men and women frightening… is not the case”.

Talking to Index, Niedermüller explained that what he finds truly “frightening” is Orbán and Fidesz’s concept of family, in which only white, Christian, and heterosexual relationships truly count.

The DK politician said he doesn’t accept Orbán and Fidesz’s view on the family “as it is unrealistic, and, for example, same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting don’t have a place there”.

Niedermüller’s party later defended the politician too, explaining that the Erzsébetváros mayor “talked about the fact that Fidesz’s worldview – which has a lot in common with nationalist thinking – is about exclusion, enemy production, and racism. And this worldview might result in that only white, heterosexual men wouldn’t be excluded from society”.

Why it matters

Niedermüller’s calling-out of Orbán and Fidesz for their racism, sexism and exclusionary enemy production, however, angered the Hungarian Bishops, who in a statement January 29 said they were “saddened and shocked” by Niedermüller’s comments.

The Hungarian Bishops expressed their “astonishment” that “Christians are being stigmatised because of their faith in Hungary in 2020”.

The Hungarian prelates noted that to date neither the TV station on which Niedermüller first made his apparently controversial remarks, nor his party, nor his other interest groups had dissociated themselves from the Erzsébetváros mayor’s apparently offensive sentiments.

Niedermüller’s attitude of Christian-baiting “evokes tragic memories [and] is unacceptable”, the Hungarian Bishops deplored.

They added that “we strongly urge all those in political life, irrespective of their convictions and affiliations, to do their work for the common good, while respecting ethical and moral standards”.

“Our faith, our culture, our history teach[] us to respect each other and the human dignity of the other, even if our views are not the same”, the prelates concluded.

What’s next

Thursday January 30 protests over Niedermüller’s comments were due to take place, organised by Fidesz and pro-government circles.

A key organiser of those protests was Fidesz co-founder, newspaper columnist and TV talk show host Zsolt Bayer.

Bayer is notorious in Hungary for his anti-Semitism and xenophobia, which has extended to calling Jews “stinking excrement”, Roma children worthy of being “run over by a car” and Muslim refugees “wildly foreign people… impossible to integrate”, among other slurs.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.