Hungary creates govt. department to aid persecuted Christians in Middle East

Hungary, Iraq

The Hungarian government has announced the creation of a new department to aid persecuted Christians. The department will initially focus on humanitarian work in the Middle East and has been given a starting budget of €3 million (around £2.5 million; US $3.3 million). “[We] will do everything in our power to improve the circumstances of Christians living in the Middle Eastern region,” said Zoltan Balog, Hungary’s Minister for Human Resources, whose ministry will oversee the new department.

A Iraqi child at a Christian refugee camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan
A Iraqi child at a Christian refugee camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

The decision to create a department focused on alleviating the persecution of Christians was taken after Zoltan Balog and the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, met with Christian leaders from the Middle East in Rome in August. The leaders included Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who survived an assassination attempt during a church service in Syria earlier this year.

Syrian and Iraqi Christians have been singled out by Islamic State, with Syrian Christians also targeted by so-called “moderate” rebel groups. But the United States government and the UN have consistently discriminated against vulnerable Christian refugees, even though many fear they will now never be able to live safely in the towns they once called home. Where countries have been willing to accept Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees, Barnabas Fund’s Operation Safe Havens has already brought 601 to safety in the Czech Republic, Poland, Canada, Brazil and Australia, and more will follow in the coming weeks.

The Hungarian government’s initiative to raise awareness and help persecuted Christians, especially in Syria and Iraq, is warmly welcomed. However, many other Western governments continue to pay lip service to the specific threat faced by Christians in the region.