„We stand up for persecuted Christians.” – said Tristan Azbej, State Secretary at the International Conference „Building Peace – Protecting Cultural Heritage – Christian Communities” organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in cooperation with the Hungary Helps Program on 22 November 2023.
In addition to national and international experts, church leaders, members of the diplomatic corps and civil society were among the many participants in the event, which was organised on the International Day of Solidarity for Persecuted Christians. The festive opening of the event was marked by a common prayer, during which Father Wilfred C. Anagbe, Bishop of the Diocese of Makurdi in Nigeria, Evangelical Bishop Dr. Tamás Fabiny and Greek Catholic Archbishop Metropolitan Father Fülöp Kocsis prayed for those suffering persecution.
State Secretary Azbej Tristan then welcomed the participants and pointed out that „Today, one in seven Christians in the world is facing some form of persecution, 360 million Christians are in a situation of minor or major persecution, exclusion or discrimination because of their faith”.
Further presentations and panel discussions focused on the protection of cultural heritage, the situation of Christian communities and the importance and relevance of peace-building. Hungary is actively involved in cultural heritage protection projects in Syria through the Hungary Helps Programme, thus contributing to one of UNESCO’s priority objectives: the international protection of cultural heritage. At the same time, restoring cultural assets in crisis zones not only strengthens the cultural identity of the area concerned, but also contributes to stability and the development of communities.
The Most Reverend Bishop Wilfred Anagbe, Bishop of Makurdi, Nigeria held a presentation about the dramatic situation of the internally displaced Christians living in his diocese. He lamented that foreign Governments do not recognize the gravity of the situation. At the conference was announced by State Secretary Azbej, that the Hungary Helps Program has now decided to provide a fast relief to tackle the humanitarian crisis there. Samuel Payra, founder and president of Bright Future Society Pakistan and Chairman of Implementation Minority Rights Forum presented his work with the Authorities of Pakistan in defence of the rights of religious minorities, especially Christians. Marcela Szymanski, head of advocacy for Aid to the Church in Need International and editor of ACN’s “Religious Freedom in the World” report summarized the main findings of the latter.This short video summarising the ACN Religious Freedom Report 2023: https://youtu.be/yoOaO0T99GM
Short video of the Red Wednesday 2023 conference in Budapest:
In the framework of the conference, Hungary also joined the international Red Wednesday campaign, where emblematic sites in the Buda Castle district were illuminated in red. This awareness-raising and solidarity action underlines the importance of support for persecuted Christians, highlighting the role of the international community in the fight against persecution. The event highlights that the protection of Christian communities is not just a religious issue, but an issue that concerns everyone, as religious freedom is a fundamental human right.