Hungary creates new department to aid persecuted Christians in the Middle East

The government of Hungary is setting up a separate government department that focuses on helping persecuted Christians. With an initial budget of €3 million ($3.35 million), the newly formed department will help Christians around the world who are facing violence and oppression. 

(Reuters/Laszlo Balogh)Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives to deliver his state-of-the-nation speech in Budapest, Hungary, February 28, 2016.

In August, the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, met with Pope Francis and different Middle Eastern patriarchs and this may have been a factor in the current administration's decision to set up the new state sub-secretariat.  It will be a part of the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources, the overarching goal of which is to deal with issues in education and the church. It will be headed by Tamás Török, who until recently was Hungary's deputy ambassador to Italy.

"Hungary has been silently working in the Middle East for years in the danger spots ... This is the prolongation of a policy that's been in place for a long time," Eduard von Habsburg said, as quoted by Crux. Habsburg is the ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See.

Currently, the statistics concerning Christians, especially in Syria and Iraq, have all been very depressing. It has been revealed that the Christian population in Iraq was estimated to be over 1 million before the breakout of war in 2003 but now has been reduced to around 400,000, with actual estimates coming out to be lower than that. 

"What's interesting is that these are both Calvinists," Habsburg said, referring to Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, and its Minister of Human Resources, Zoltán Balog who both traveled to Rome and met with Pope Francis. "And both are people of faith," he continued.

Habsburg added that the commitment of the current administration to provide help for persecuted Christians has been reinforced by contacts with influential leaders of the church in Europe such as Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria and other patriarchs of the Middle East.