By BosNewsLife News Center with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
BEIRUT/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s foreign minister has urged the international community to support Lebanon’s stability and protect Christians in the region amid concerns about rising sectarian tensions.
Péter Szijjártó made the comments Monday, February 9, after meeting his European Union and Lebanese counterparts in Brussels, Belgium.
Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per citizen in international comparison and its internal stability is key for the entire region, he said.
The country has registered over 1.1 million refugees from neighboring Syria, including many Christians, since the civil war started there four years ago.
“If there is no stability in Lebanon, Christian communities all through the region are more under threat,” Hungarian news agency MTI quoted Szijjártó as saying.
CHRISTIAN AID WORKERS
His comments reflect concerns among Christian aid workers. “Lebanon remains a place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution. Christians from Iraq, Egypt. Sudan and more recently Syria have gone to the country to escape discrimination and violence in their homeland,” said Barnabas Fund, a Christian aid and advocacy group.
However, “The conflict in Syria has been spilling over into Lebanon, inflaming underlying sectarian tensions,” Barnabas Fund noted in a recent assessment of the situation.
“Fighters from the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah have helped shore up Syrian President Assad’s forces, while The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an al-Qaida-linked militant group, has been launching attacks in Lebanon,” it said.
However in a recent move widely condemned by aid groups, Lebanon’s government reportedly announced that only “exceptional humanitarian cases” would be considered for refuge.
FACING UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Additionally registered refugees would no longer be able to travel back to Syria without forfeiting their status and eligibility to aid.
Aid workers say this could complicate life for at least 300,000 Syrians who regularly cross borders to work in different jobs to support their struggling families.
Szijjártó also said that EU foreign ministers are to hold a “strategic debate” about Africa from where many refugees, including Christians, arrive in Europe.
Hungary hosts more than 1,000 African students and wants to participate in Africa’s economic development development, he said.
“When there is danger of terror or health risks, then migration to Europe increases,” Szijjártó noted, adding that Hungary will contribute 26.6 million euro ($30 million) annually to the European Development Fund until 2020.
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