Often even Christian churches are reluctant to bring up the issue of Christian persecution and acknowledge problems by their name, the deputy state secretary for aiding persecuted Christians said in an interview from Ottawa, Canada late on Thursday.
Tristan Azbej was in the Canadian capital to attend a conference on the persecution and aiding of Christians in the Middle East and Africa organised by the Hungarian embassy in collaboration with the human resources ministry. The conference also included an exhibition on the subject.
Speaking to MTI, Azbej noted that Thursday’s was not the first conference organised by Hungary on the persecution of Christians, adding, at the same time, that this forum explored new aspects of the issue.
One of the questions raised was why Christian churches are often reluctant to address the issue of Christian persecution.
“Western Christians feel a sort of guilt that shifts the blame for crimes committed during the Crusades and the era of colonisation to Christian churches, so they give in to the neoliberal principle suggesting that Christianity is an aggressive religion,” the deputy state secretary said.
Christian churches, he said, were “afraid” to point out that Islamic extremists were responsible for the persecution of Christians.
Azbej said the academics, researchers, diplomats, religious representatives and Canadian MPs in attendance at the conference had expressed their appreciation for Hungary’s “honest and straightforward” remarks on the issue of religious persecution and all that the government is doing to help persecuted Christians.
“It’s hard to narrow down the problem of Christian persecution to a single country or region,”
Azbej said. “They [Christians] currently face persecution in 80 countries, but most of the attention is of course directed towards the Middle East.” The deputy state secretary noted that over the last decade, Syria’s Christian population had shrunk from more than 2 million to 800,000, with most Christians living as internal refugees in their homeland. But the biggest population decline happened in Iraq, which went from 1.5 million Christians in 2004 to 300,000 today. “Even the number of Coptic Christians has been halved,” he added.
“The number one task today is breaking down the wall of silence,” Azbej said, adding that Christian Democrats should include the representatives of other religions in this mission, too. He said that at the conference, Muslims had also expressed their support for Christianity, and had clearly named Islamic extremists as those responsible for the persecution of Christians.
“One of the Shia Imams in attendance said the persecution of Christians was not the problem of Christians but that of Muslims and that all well-intentioned Muslims must stand up for Christians,” Azbej recalled.
He said the conference was also attended by Eastern Christian church leaders as well as Jewish leaders, all of whom had expressed their support for persecuted Christians.