A British-Hungarian Anglican priest-journalist has denounced Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s “propagandist manipulation” of persecuted Christians.

Driving the news

In a January 10 piece in the Church Times, Anglican vicar, legal scholar and freelance journalist Alexander Faludy warned Christians that “the persecution of our brothers and sisters is vulnerable to propagandist manipulation by unscrupulous political interests”.

“A just cause can be transformed, with disturbing ease, into a freighted ‘culture-wars’ marker”, Faludy said.

He added that “this is already the case in Hungary, whose far-Right Fidesz government has been cultivating warm relations” with the government of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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As proof for his claim of Hungary’s “persecution propaganda”, Faludy pointed to Orbán’s speech to the second International Conference on Christian Persecution (ICCP2), hosted by the Hungarian government in late November last year.

“The Hungarian government is convinced that the problems facing Christianity in Europe and the persecution of Christians in Africa and the Middle East cannot be separated”, Orbán said, reiterating his administration’s support for Christian minorities around the world.

“Hungary lies on the route of the Muslim immigration invasion; it must defend itself”, Orbán added.

It was an address that was hailed by Catholic conservatives as “unashamedly Christian”, and worthy of “the only nation in the world to have a specific governmental ministry devoted to the assistance of persecuted Christians”, in the words of one commentator.

Why it matters

But drilling down into the specifics of Hungary’s assistance programs to Christian minorities around the world, Faludy concluded that “the full context of Hungary’s involvement with persecuted Christians… belies the rhetoric employed”.

As Faludy wrote:

“The website Hungarian Spectrum reports an expenditure of €21 million in 2017-19 on Hungary Helps, the country’s dedicated aid service for Persecuted Christians.

“Between February and April last year, the Hungarian government spent €31 million on an international poster campaign attacking the billionaire philanthropist George Soros and the outgoing EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker”.

Faludy also called “worrying” Orbán’s declaration at the ICCP2 conference that Hungary disperses money to persecuted Christians “directly”, and not through aid agencies, since “Orbán’s government has a record of misdirecting public funds”.

As the priest-journalist explained:

“On 3 September, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) said that Hungary misused more European Union funds than any other country. It recommended repayment of €371 million.

“Transparency International reports ‘systemic corruption in Hungary’s public procurement landscape'”.

“It is hard to see how Hungary Helps could be isolated from these difficulties”, Faludy concluded.

The priest-journalist thus threw doubts over where Hungary’s money for persecuted Christians is really going, and why the Hungarian government makes such a show of giving it.

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.