Hungarian government supports Lebanese Christians to stay in their homeland
Over the past few years, millions of Christians had to flee from their homeland because of military conflicts in the Middle East. Lebanese Christians, who have lived through two civil wars, are now at peace with Muslims but the persecution of Christians and the ever-growing presence of Islam fundamentalism is having a strong impact on the life of Maronite Christians in the country.
Help from Hungary and the broader International Community is important for the subsistence of those Middle-East communities that form the roots of Christianity – said Cardinal Béchara Boutros Rai on Hungarian television. The Cardinal is Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syriacs of the Syriac Catholic Church.
Ending the official visit of the Maronite Patriarch, Lebanese Ambassador Joanna Azzi and Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén jointly announced that the Hungarian Government will help Lebanese Christians stay in their homeland through its programme of aiding persecuted Christians. The programme has a budget of one million euro.
The project of assisting Christians is aiming at creating a family-care centre and a vocational training school, particularly for women. The Hungarian government is thus trying to prevent migration, so that Lebanese Christians would prefer to stay at home rather than emigrating.
Lebanon is located in a region that is facing several difficulties. As a result of the Christian persecutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the civil wars of the past decades in Lebanon, two-thirds of the Maronites now live away from their homeland.
Out of the nearly 3.5 million Maronite community, just over one million live in Lebanon, and less than one hundred thousand in the surrounding countries. The other two and a half million Maronites have emigrated mainly to the United States, South America and Argentina.
In recent years, millions of Christians have been forced to flee by Islamist groups operating in Syria and Iraq. It is feared that this will affect the Lebanese Christians, as they are usually linked with strong family ties to Christians living in the neighbouring countries.
Cardinal Béchara Boutros Rai, who visited Hungary on the occasion of the national holiday of Hungary on the 20th of August, at the joint invitation of Péter Erdő, cardinal, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Zsolt Semjén, Deputy Prime Minister, emphasised:
“Middle Eastern Christians, who represent the native inhabitants of the region, have paid a tremendous price during these wars.”
“Hungary’s efforts to aid the preservation of Christian civilization and communities by supporting Christians is therefore justified.”
“All the more so, as fundamentalism and radicalism are spreading at an alarming rate within the Muslim population,” the Cardinal said.