Interview with Hungarian deputy state secretary Tamás Török
No European citizen, whether Christian or not, should be ignorant about the fate of our soul-relatives in the Near East
The Ministry of Human Resources, led by Zoltán Balog, added a new department in October:
the Deputy State Secretariat for helping persecuted Christians. We
discuss its concerns and objectives with its leader, the deputy state
secretary Tamás Török.
How did this all come about?
At the end of August Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Minister of
Human Resources Zoltán Balog participated in a consultation with several
patriarchs from the Near East in Rome. The main topic was the
persecution of Christians in their regions. After describing the
situation at their place, the patriarchs asked the present European
leaders for their specific help. Prime Minister Orbán promised that
Hungary will be engaging itself even more intensively for the protection
and strengthening of Christian communities in the region, as far as the
country’s possibilities allow.
Has there been any help available for threatened Christian communities in Hungary already?
Yes, Hungary has been already giving humanitarian help and support to
raise awareness about the prosecution of Christians especially in the
Near East. Among other things, a Christian school in Erbil [Iraqi
Kurdistan] was successfully rebuilt with Hungarian help. The Hungarian
government feels closely in connection with the Christian communities
chased both for their ethnicity and religion, and has announced this
several times in the past. The creation of a deputy state secretariat
was just the next step in the process.
What exactly are your responsibilities?
First of all, we wanted to co-ordinate the already-running different
humanitarian helping actions in a more effective way. Additionally, my
deputy secretariat will start a scholarship program, which will allow us
to host 250 persecuted Christian youngsters in Hungary for the
following two years. We believe that enlightenment is very important,
especially making the global public sensitive to the modern persecution
of Christians. We will organise a world congress in Budapest each year
with this aim, with the help of international experts and the leaders of
the impacted Christian communities of course. Furthermore, we will
publish a yearbook in several languages each year about the situation of
the persecuted Christians. We also want to film documentaries about
this topic. We would like Budapest to become an important international
centre in the protection of persecuted Christians.
It’s also very important to analyse the causes and motivations behind
the persecution of Christians. In order to make fundamental changes to
improve the situation it’s important to understand what is going on in
these regions. For more than 2000 years Christians and non-Christians
have been able to live together more or less peacefully in this region.
Then suddenly it’s not working anymore. What happened in the past few
years? How could the situation change so dramatically? How was this
religious intolerance, which is now endangering the existence of the
Christian communities, created? How and why were these once-peaceful
Muslims angered? It’s important to emphasise that numerous Moslems are
the victims of this radicalisation too, which consists of misusing faith
to fanaticise people. All of this has to be stopped.
By establishing a deputy state secretariat.
The Hungarian government would like to set an international example
with this. We would like to point out that something is going very
wrong. It’s our moral duty to help a society that is related by soul
with us. Our government emphasised several times that it’s important for
our future to maintain our Christian-Jewish roots. We Europeans are
Europeans since we were raised in the spirit of these roots. Even if
someone is an atheist, he is enjoying the fruits of these roots today.
He is free to express his opinion in Europe, since we have democracy.
Without our Christian-Jewish roots we would not have democracy, we would
not have equality between men and women, we would not have civil laws.
Unfortunately the European youngsters are taking all these achievements
granted and automatic, so that they can’t imagine that these values have
to be defended and strengthened. The Christian communities in the Near
East are feeling completely different. The way they are defending their
values, which are also our values, should be an example to us. Now they
need our support so that they are able to live on according to their
values and their way of living in their home country. This is the
expressed wish of the leaders of these Christian communities. Nobody
gives up their home voluntarily. No European citizen, whether Christian
or not, should be ignorant about the fate of our soul-relatives in the
Does something like your deputy state secretariat exist in other countries too?
In other countries there are institutions dealing with the protection
of freedom of belief and religion in general. However, such a
high-level institution as ours, which is specifically dealing with the
fate of the persecuted Christians, is without a match. It’s very
important that we dare to say what this is about. Let’s speak out that
there is a society with which we have an ideological connection and for
which we feel a greater responsibility than for other religious groups.
We should not need to apologise for that, being Europeans. Engaging
ourselves in helping out our soul mates is a very natural thing to do.
The Islamic society is also specifically and expressively committed to
its followers in Europe, after all.
However, in the “politically correct” Western Europe your initiative surely does not enjoy full support.
I think that it’s politically correct to say the truth and express
our solidarity for our relatives. After all, this is about our roots,
it’s about our values and main principles. We must continuously defend
them. However, we have to be conscious about what these values mean to
us and why are they so important. Without the Christian religion our
present life with democracy and freedom of opinion would not exist.
However, the reason why we need to step up for the threatened Christian
communities is not only our common roots. After all, the reason why they
are attacked so intensively now is because their enemies identify them
with the European Christians. The attacks on them are also attacks on us
and our way of living. The only difference between us and our Christian
brothers is that the Christians outside the protection of countries
founded by Christians are easier to attack at the moment than the
others. At the end all the Christians and the followers of the Western
culture are targeted by the Islamic fanatics; there is one single
frontline. Already because of this we should not leave our soul
relatives in the Near East alone in their trouble. They need our help
now and we must be ready to help them.
Today the Christians are the most endangered religious group in the
world. A Christian is murdered because of his religion every single five
minutes all around the world. About 200 million Christians in 80
countries have to face a form of discrimination because of their faith.
Currently 80% of the people murdered due to their religion are
Christians. At the beginning of the 20th century every fourth inhabitant
in the Near East was a Christian but today only every 33rd citizen is a
member of the Christian religious community. A terrible development is
going on in front of our eyes. Still, the West remains surprisingly
passive. Sometimes it looks quite like the heart of the Western public
is much more worried about the suffering of the victims of the conflicts
in the Near East. Just look at all the things that are done for the
That might be the result of the missing consciousness about tradition, especially characteristic in Western Europe.
Absolutely. While small groups of extremists are heating up the
religious groups against each other, giving more importance to religion –
even if only in a very negative sense – Europe is losing more and more
its religion, its identity. These two parallel processes are happening
at the same time and are strengthening each other’s effect. I don’t
understand how someone can voluntarily give up his way of living, ignore
his own self and distance himself from his parents. I don’t see the
logic there. For me it’s very difficult to understand the neutrality of
Western media about the fate of persecuted Christians. After all, this
story is about their distant relatives, who have still preserved their
religion. At the present time the persecution of Christians is taking
place to the same extent as it was when the Christian religion was
founded. Nevertheless, the “Christian” countries are barely noticing
For me it’s very difficult to understand the neutrality of Western media about the fate of persecuted Christians
The situation of Christian communities changed so dramatically last but not least due to the “democracy export” from the West.
Either way. Even if we consider this quite questionable concept, we
have to agree that we have to massively support the democratic
communities in all the impacted countries, which also includes the
Christians. At least if the authors of the “democracy export” are really
serious about creating democratic processes. Up until now the “Arabian
spring” realised just the opposite of all the expressed intentions of
the “democracy exporters” for all the Christians in the impacted
countries. For the Christians in the Near East life was never without
any problems but in the meantime it became life-threatening. There are
even real ethnic cleansing actions taking place. The global community
can’t just idly stand by anymore.
We would like to achieve that more and more people learn at least what
is happening to people over there, people who believe in the same values
as we do. The highest goal of our newly created deputy state
secretariat would be that one day it will have no reason to exist
anymore, since all the Christians all around the world can live safely
just like in Europe or the United States. However, I am afraid that this
is going to happen only in the very long term. As long as it does not
happen, my department will stay a solid part of our ministry.
Why is your deputy state secretariat part of the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI) and not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
EMMI is responsible for the future generations among other things,
for the future of our culture, the families, society, our way of living
and also our identity. It’s a part of this identity for me that we
understand that we are part of a larger community, which has members who
are in need now and need our active solidarity.
How many employees is your department going to have?
First only ten employees. Of course, we can also rely on the existing
resources of our ministry and even on the other institutions and our
Have you already visited the scene where the persecution is taking place?
No, not yet. However, I am planning a travel to Erbil this year among
other things, where I will visit the Hungarian general consul as well.
How have the international reactions to the foundation of your department been up until now?
Very positive. Many people see us as an example to follow and want to
learn from Hungary in this context. There is a huge interest. We are
visited continuously by people who would like to get information about
the way we help the persecuted Christians directly from us. We are
constantly receiving offers for co-operation. Time will tell the truth
about our work. We do our job because we believe it’s important. If
other countries are willing to learn from our example, that is nice of
course but it’s not the main focus of our work.