“We bid you welcome – I have been waiting for you!” Students coming from countries where Christians are persecuted celebrate the beginning of a new school term.
Students from some persecuted Middle Eastern and Nigerian Christian communities that are studying with Hungarian scholarships opened the school year with a ceremony on Friday in Gazdagrét. It was made evident during the event that Hungary feels enormous solidarity with the victims of persecution and is willing to stand up for them. A report of S4C.news.
About 187 students started their academic year, participating in a Mass at the Holy Angels Church in Gazdagrét, Budapest. These young people are all participants of the “Fellowship Programme for Young Christians” funded and sponsored by the Hungarian government.
The parish priest, Fr Károly Szederkényi who hosted the event in the very modern church building, welcomed the young people who hail from the Middle East and Nigeria. He emphasised that the diocese feels particularly close to its eastern brothers given that a chapel attached to the church holds sacred relics of four saints from Lebanon. The relics were gifted to the Hungarian Catholics by Cardinal Béchara Boutros Al -Raï during a recent visit.
Bishop Ferenc Cserháti Dr, the principal concelebrant at the Mass, who was joined in the celebration by some African priests, expressed his appreciation to the community of young people for their brave Christian attitude. “You all have the support of the Catholic Church,” he said while adding: “Many others are praying for you.” The Bishop went on to point out that the students present at the church came from Iraq, Syria and Nigeria.
These are countries that suffer great persecution and where many Christians have been killed in their homeland because of refusing to give up their ancestors’ faith and traditions.
“You are witnesses of fidelity to the Gospel” said Ferenc Cserháti, and then commented: “You remind me of those who had to go to church at gunpoint,” citing the teaching of the Apostles according to which, “Christians should never be afraid to be witnesses of Christ”.
The bishop pointed out that countries in Europe are in danger because of secular, materialistic thinking. “We [in Europe] can gain strength and encouragement from the example of those that are persecuted.”
After the Mass, Tristan Azbey who is the secretary of state for the aid of persecuted Christians and the person responsible for the ‘Hungary Helps’ programme spoke to the young students and invited his audience to learn some Hungarian expressions. “We bid you welcome” and “I’ve been waiting for you” were two such phrases.
He said that the solidarity of the Hungarians could be recognised in the way the participants of the scholarship programme are welcomed in the country.
Hungary has “some good news” not only for these young people, but also for their families and church communities at home. “We think about you, pray for you, take care of you and stand up for you, and we stand by you in solidarity” said the secretary of state to the students from the Middle East and Africa.
“For us, this is a mission” he claimed.
Referring to over one thousand years of Hungarian history, he recalled how Hungarians also had to experience the bloody reality of Christian persecution several times, – the last time being during the communist dictatorship.
“Today, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, against which many people do not raise their voices, – this being the shame of the world,” Azbej said.
“The goal of the ‘Hungary Helps’ programme is to let the world hear about you and do something for you.”
He emphasised that Hungary does this with a clear and firm conscience. He explained that the programme had two objectives: the rebuilding of the infrastructure that has been destroyed and the rebuilding of human lives.
Finally, he encouraged the alumni to go out and discover the values and beauties of Hungary, to visit the countryside, and to meet Hungarians; the more – the merrier. “Make friends, and give witness about your faith to the European churches that are emptying.”