By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s anti-migration government has warned that surging Christian persecution must end worldwide, including in Europe, which faced several Islamic terror attacks.
Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó noted that “Christianity is still the most persecuted religion on Earth,” though his government is reluctant to take in Christian refugees.
Speaking at last week’s online conference of the U.S.led International Religious Freedom Alliance, he claimed some “260 million Christians faced persecution in the world today, and 3,000 had been killed this year.”
At least 3,700 Christians were detained due to their faith over the last year, according to Hungarian government estimates. Minister Szijjártó said, “eight Christians were killed daily on average.” He reported 9,500 attacks against Christian churches and facilities over the last year.
“The world should not forget about that, not even under these challenging circumstances,” Szijjártó added in an apparent reference to the coronavirus pandemic and other turmoil. “And we Europeans do have to be aware that this is not just a remote phenomenon,” he said. “This phenomenon has been here in Europe now.”
Minister Szijjártó cited recent deadly Islamic terrorist attacks in France and Austria and the vandalization of statues of Pope John Paul II in Poland.
He expressed solidarity with Poland’s government and the Polish Catholic Church, saying “extremist attacks” against Christian communities must be stopped. “This is a common responsibility of ours that we do have to push back these extreme anti-Christian movements.”
Several churches were attacked in Poland in violent protests after a high court ruling backed the government’s prohibition of abortion on grounds of disabilities.
Szijjártó also said that measures against the coronavirus pandemic should not limit Christian communities’ right to practice their faith amid concerns about church closures.
Tristan Azbej, Hungary’s secretary for aiding persecuted Christians, agrees. He also urged
the world to not forget “about those for whom the coronavirus seems like the lesser evil compared with the existential crisis they are forced to face every day.”
Azbej told an online conference of rights group International Christian Concern that the number of Christians facing persecution globally rose from 245 million to 260 million over the past year.
“Around one-third of the world’s population faces some form of persecution over their religious beliefs, with Christians being the most persecuted community,” he said. “Their situation has now also been made worse by the pandemic.”
However, the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has come under criticism. Hungary is one of the first countries with a government office dedicated to persecuted Christians, but it appears reluctant to accept Christian refugees. Azbej countered that rather than “encouraging persecuted communities to leave their homelands, help should be taken where the problems arise.”
Human rights groups have questioned that approach saying some face severe consequences when returning home. Among them, Abouzar Soltani, an Iranian Christian, and his 11-year-old-son Armin. Soltani had been living in blue containers since late 2018 after asking for asylum on political and religious grounds.
Soltani recently ”thanked God” after he was moved to a reception center following 17 months of detention in a container camp on the Hungarian-Serbian border. However his legal case continues, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee rights group told Worthy News. Soltani could face a lengthy prison term and potentially execution in Iran for abandoning Islam.