The Hungarian Government has inflated in a conference in the USA the amount of money it gives to persecuted Christians around the world, boasting of a figure twice the amount it revealed to a Hungarian investigative journalism outlet only last month.

Driving the news

Hungary’s State Secretary for Aid to Persecuted Christians, Tristan Azbej, gave a speech July 26 to the 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C.

“Hungary has protected Christianity many times throughout its history, and is still proud to be Christian nowadays as well, and argues in favor of Christianity and Christian culture to be given the priority in Europe”, said Azbej.

“Christianity is the most persecuted religion, all over the Earth”, the official lamented.

He added that although “[f]our out of five men and women, who are persecuted for their belief, are Christians”, in the “discussion going on in the European media or political elite… Christianophobia is being portrayed as if it was the last acceptable form of discrimination”.

Azbej boasted in Washington of the fact that “[w]e, Hungarians are the first ones to establish a separate State Secretariat in the Government, which has only one duty: To look after and monitor the destiny and the situation of the Christian communities all over the world, and if there is a need, we help”.

“So far, we have spent 36.5 [million US dollars] on strengthening the Christian communities, where they live”, Azbej added.

“This is because of our basic approach, that we do not want to have the Christian communities, the members of the Christian communities to leave their homes, but to have them to be able to stay and to be stronger there. Our principle is bringing help where it is needed, and not bringing problems where there are no problems yet at least”, the official explained.

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Go deeper

Azbej was referring to the “Hungary Helps” project, which according to a Government website has as its twin goals those of “providing direct support for persecuted Christian communities” and “raising domestic and international political and public awareness of the phenomenon and increasing scale of Christian persecution in the 21st century”.

How much, then, has the Hungarian Government spent on the program since it was set up in 2016?

The $36.5 million (32.268 million euro) figure quoted by Azbej in Washington is almost double the 18 million euro number obtained by the investigative journalism outlet Átlátszó just this past July through a Freedom of Information request.

Átlátszó revealed that the Hungarian Government has spent 6 million euros on aid to Christians in Iraq and Syria, 3 million euros on aid to Christians in Lebanon, and 900,000 euros on aid to Christians in Jordan, Congo and Nigeria.

Most of the aid money was spent on schools, houses, hospitals and churches, Átlátszó said.

The investigative journalism outlet also revealed some other spending priorities of the Hungarian Government:

  • 2017 “Stop Soros” campaign: 36.6 million euros
  • Vidi FC Stadium: 42.7 million euros
  • 2016 migrant quota referendum campaign: 45.8 million euros
  • Financial support to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s football team, Felcsút: 76.3 million euros
  • Puskás Aréna, Hungary’s new national stadium: 488.4 million euros

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Why it matters

Whether the “Hungary Helps” number is 18 or 32 million euros, many Hungarians are wondering whether the money wouldn’t be better spent at home.

According to 2018 figures, 44% of all Hungarians cannot afford basic resources.

That’s on top of 2016 numbers that suggest 60% of citizens are worried about corruption in their Government that they say goes all the way to Prime Minister Orbán.

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