Greetings to the Dear Reader at the beginning of 2021!
Crossing the threshold of the New Year and looking back at the events of the past year, we would like to present the main achievements of the Hungary Helps Program, the Hungarian international aid program in 2020.
This summary and information is part of the responsibility we have towards others: towards the Hungarians of solidarity, whose unanimous majority is behind our program; to the distressed people in need we help with our support; and to our international partners, with whom we can work even more effectively in an alliance.
The decisive yardstick in measuring how a humanitarian program is doing lies how well it can respond to situations and circumstances caused by extraordinary events.
The coronavirus pandemic has been an example of the above, an emergency situation, which required extraordinary solutions: we had to continue international humanitarian aid all the while also prioritizing protecting domestic lives first. This has posed a double challenge to the humanitarian mission: to find ways to help ourselves, while also not to forgetting about the others. I am happy and proud to report: the Hungary Helps Program has been able to meet the challenge.
While we focused many of our resources on battling the virus in Hungary, in the meantime, we were also aware that the humanitarian crises caused by the virus affected minority Christian communities and other religious groups in detrimental ways. We have not forgotten about those less fortunate living in underprivileged communities with limited access international aid.
The question arises: what is the legacy of 2020? My hope is that it’s not the epidemic itself, but rather the lessons on responsibility for each other. These challenging times have made us all more aware: no one is a separate island, we are responsible for each other. This principle is also a core value in the field of humanitarian action.
The epidemic only strengthens our commitment to standing up for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities, we will emerge victorious.
If the epidemic strengthens in us in the belief that help should be taken where the trouble is, rather than bringing the trouble here, we will come out victorious.
If we come out of the epidemic with strength, we are victorious.
for the Aid of Persecuted Christians
and the Hungary Helps Program
New milestone: 100 000
There are milestones in life that mark a turning point for man.Such a milestone in the life of the Hungary Helps Program is that in three and a half years the Hungarian humanitarian and development program has reached a number of significance: we contributed to one hundred thousand people to either stay in their homeland or to return from migration in a dignified manner.
These three and a half yearshas been a road, leadning from breaking of silence to helping these hundred thousand people.
The Government of Hungary was among the first to draw attention to the dangers of migration to Europe and to the fact that the world’s largest and most concealed humanitarian crisis is the human rights crisis of the persecuted Christians.
It is a fact that more than 80 percent of people persecuted for their religion are Christians, meaning Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.
Therefore, in 2016, we raised the level of action against the persecution of Christians to the governmental level by establishing a State Secretariat to tackle and address the issue.
With the launch of the Hungary Helps Program in 2017, Hungary has chosen a path of not only, while protecting its borders, Christian culture, and national identity, but also not forgetting those in need, providing local assistance to communities suffering persecution and conflicts.
Regardless of your religious or ethnic background, we help in areas that are prone to migration and are affected by armed conflicts, terrorism, and other humanitarian crises, strongly supporting Christians as the most vulnerable and persecuted religious group in the world.
One hundred thousand people; the number of those who could stay in their homeland as a result of our program, is not primarily an achievement, but an additional task and a confirmation of our three-way aspect, which defines the principle of the Hungary Helps Program. To this end, as in the past, we will not support but instead stop migration to Europe in the future; we continue to help directly and in partnership with the churches, where the trouble is, regardless of ethnicity or religion, but not forgetting the fact of Christian and other religious persecution.
The Government of Hungary, together with the Hungarians in solidarity, will continue to contribute to the international humanitarian mission. Hungary helps because, as a thousand-year-old Christian country, Christian faith and morality oblige it to do so, but also because the idea of universal solidarity brings responsibility towards humanity.
Major projects of 2020
Humanitarian aid to Kenya
In February 2020, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received Anthony Muheria, Archbishop of the Nyeri Diocese of Kenya, in Budapest. During the meeting they discussed Christian persecution, the migration situation in Africa, and the humanitarian aid provided by Hungary. The meeting was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and Tristan Azbej, State Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, responsible for helping persecuted Christians and the Hungary Helps Program.
As a result of the meeting, the Government of Hungary provided support to the parish of St. Joseph the Worker in Kangemi, Kenya, through the Hungary Helps Program, which enabled the building
of a vocational educational block in a slum where more than a hundred thousand people live in severe deprivation.
In a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the director of the supported institution’s development program thanked the Hungarian help, expressing his gratitude for the „friendship, care and support” of the Hungarians.
The Hungarian assistance contributes to keeping young people in place and thus preventing migration, which already poses a health threat.
Humanitarian aid and supporting rescue efforts after the Beirut explosion
On 4 August 2020, in Beirut nearly 200 people were killed, at least 4,000 injured, 300,000 lost their homes, significant food and medicine supplies were destroyed in the port, and an orthodox hospital near the tragedy was destroyed in the double explosion. The Hungary Helps Program provided humanitarian aid to save human lives, as well as towards rescue, and reconstruction efforts after the explosion.
The Hungarian donation was delivered to those in need within 24 hours of the disaster through the Syriac Maronite Catholic Church of Antioch. The significance of the Hungarian support, in addition to saving lives and mitigating the damage, is that it also helped to prevent a possible wave of migration from Lebanon.
Support for educational institutions
in the Holy Land
In the spirit of our principle that help should be taken where the trouble is, not the trouble brought here, we supported the operation of educational institutions in the Holy Land, which were in a hopeless situation due to the economic effects of the pandemic. The mission of maintaining Christian schools is not only to maintain Christianity but also to facilitate living peacefully side by side in the long run, as not only Christian students but also mostly Muslim children attend these schools.
With this project, we have also been contributing to the mutual acceptance of Christians and Muslims, which also serves the peace of the entire region and the survival of Christians. Also, by supporting local vocational training, we create a chance for young people living there to stay in their home country. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem maintains 43 schools with nearly 20,000 students.
Support for Armenian humanitarian projects
Our humanitarian mission is to stand in solidarity with the innocent, civilian victims of conflicts. Therefore, the Hungary Helps Program, with the help of the Hungarian Ecumenical Charity and the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid, provided emergency assistance to the rehabilitation of civilians fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh armed conflict in Armenia. Hungary is on the side of peace and supports a negotiated solution to the conflict. Our human solidarity is universal, so we stand with all those who suffer innocently.
In addition, the Government of Hungary also supports the religious, community, and humanitarian projects of the Armenian Apostolic Church through the Hungary Helps Program, such as the reconstruction of the church and community building of its Iraqi Archdiocese in Zakho, and by supporting the St. Mesrop Chruch in Homs, Syria, the Sahagian Armenian School in Aleppo and the Armenian Cultural Centre in Damascus, as well as the general humanitarian projects of the church.
Supporting the humanitarian projects of the Syrian Orthodox Church
The Syrian Orthodox Church has a key role in stabilizing the crisis-stricken Middle East and curbing migration. Migration, due to the coronavirus pandemic, also poses a health threat to Europe. That is why the Hungary Helps Program have been supporting humanitarian projects in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, and have provided food aid to those in need, thus helping to ensure the survival of
local Christian communities in their homeland. The Hungary Helps Program provided support to complete the construction of the primary school of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Um al Noor, Syria, while the Hungary Helps Volunteer Program supported internally displaced children in Syria and Iraq with hundreds of mask donations sewn by our volunteer.
Despite the global challenge posed by the COVID-19, the Hungary Helps Program continued its humanitarian work in full swing, recalibrating its activities to the challenges of the pandemic. Recognizing that we can only continue to help others if we protect ourselves, for the first time, the Hungary Helps Program has also joined the domestic efforts against the coronavirus situation, thus continuing its mission unbroken.
For us, the safety of Hungary and the health of the Hungarian people is the first priority, so we put forward our best effort to defend ourselves in Hungary. In addition to our financial resources, we have contributed to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by sharing our experience and deploying professional resources established in recent years during the execution of international humanitarian projects.
We called our workers home from our support sites and, if necessary, evacuated several charity professionals performing missions in the Hungary Helps Program to involve them in the domestic defense against the coronavirus after the mandatory home quarantine, and we kept our volunteers at home. Feeling responsibility towards Hungarians abroad, we supported the epidemiological defense
of the Hungarian community in Beregszász in Transcarpathia in cooperation with the Hungarian Ecumenical Charity. The efficient domestic defense has made it possible for us to help those in need in other parts of the world, while not forgetting persecuted Christians. By donating masks and other protective equipment, we have helped countries whose stability is extremely important to us, for example, because of the fight against illegal migration.
We have also recognized that the coronavirus epidemic, as well as the consequences of natural disasters, have an increased impact on cumulative humanitarian crises in crisis areas and Christians, who are often at risk of terrorism. Therefore, the Government of Hungary supported the Christian communities in Syria, Lebanon, DR Congo, and Nigeria with food donations through the Hungary Helps Program.
The Hungarian support contributes to the ability of local churches to provide long-term food for their faithful who are most exposed to food crises and to enable those living in crisis areas to remain in their homeland, thus reducing the pressure of migration on Europe.
Red Wednesday 2020 in Budapest
The Red Wednesday Memorial Day, launched based on the initiative of Aid to the Church in Need was held on November 25, to which Hungary joined in 2020. On this occasion, we illuminated some of the sights and churches of Budapest with blood-red lights in memory of the persecuted Christian martyrs, involving the churches of four Hungarian Christian denominations in the spirit of ecumenical thought. The initiative draws attention to one of the biggest human rights crises of our time, the persecution of Christians, which claims the lives of nearly 10 innocent people every day. As part of the commemoration, State Secretary Tristan Azbej sent a video message to the persecuted Christians.
Bilateral cooperations in 2020
In August, State Secretary Tristan Azbej and Pawel Jablonski, Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland signed a memorandum of understanding on humanitarian cooperation in Budapest. Within the framework of the Polish-Hungarian co-operation, a taskforce has been established to help each other by sharing the knowledge and experience gained in humanitarian crisis situations. Hungary and Poland believe that trouble shouldn’t be brought to Europe, the help must be provided where the trouble is. To this end, based on the agreement, the Hungarian and Polish governments intend to help those persecuted for their religion in the Middle East by implementing a joint project.
During the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó to Tallinn in March, Hungary and Estonia concluded a cooperation agreement to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East. As part of this, we will jointly assist to Christian communities forced to flee Syria which has been hit by terror and war to the first safe country, Jordan.
State Secretary Tristan Azbej received Dr. Robert Kokalj, Ambassador of Slovenia in Budapest, during the meeting they discussed the possibilities of joint humanitarian action with the Hungary Helps Program. This event could mark the start of further cooperation and provide a basis for the two neighboring nations to fuse the strength of their solidarity and assistance to those in need.
As a result of a December 2018 cooperation agreement between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Hungary Helps Program, more than 900 people were able to return to their renovated homes in early 2020 in Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city, where more than 3,000 residential buildings were demolished or set on fire during the terror of the Islamic State. In order to enable locals expelled by jihadists to return, Hungary has supported the reconstruction of dozens of homes in cooperation with USAID under the Hungary Helps Program.