Protecting cultures and religions important in preserving peace, preventing migration

Protecting cultural and religious heritage in crisis areas can help create and sustain peace as well as prevent migration, Hungary's state secretary for aiding persecuted Christians said in Brussels on Monday.

Tristan Azbej told MTI that the European Union Foreign Service (EEAS), at Hungary’s initiative, has forged a concept for protecting cultural heritage in crisis areas, and the European Union Foreign Affairs Council approved the concept at the end of June.

At a conference today, Hungary emboldened European Union institutions to include support for persecuted Christian communities in their external policy portfolio. Experience suggests that preserving religious sites instils hope for the future in people caught up in conflicts and tempers their desire to emigrate, he said.

Azbej insisted that EU institutions had been indifferent to persecuted Christians, and persecuted Christians had generally received less attention and support than other persecuted or discriminated religious communities. Islamophobia often gets more attention than the persecution of Christians, he added.

Thanks to Hungary’s initiative, Christian communities in Europe’s neighborhood, as well as in the Middle East and Africa, may get the attention they deserve, he said, adding that EU grants may now be channelled to organisations run by Hungary and churches in order that they may support persecuted Christians outside Europe.

Previously, the pursuit of political correctness and neutrality were reasons why such organisations missed out, he added.

The Hungary Helps programme, he noted, is aimed at enabling local communities in crisis areas, including persecuted Christians, to remain safe in their homeland and prevent people from emigrating. During its four years of operations, Hungary’s programme has helped at least a quarter of a million people living in crisis-stricken areas to stay where they are. Poland and Slovenia are following Hungary’s example with similar policies, Azbej said.

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