By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- Hungary's government wants Hungary to become "a hub and supporter" of groups who fight against persecution of Christians. "More Christians are being persecuted today throughout the world than during the reign of
the Roman Emperor Nero," said Bence Rétvári, state secretary of the Ministry of Human Resources. He spoke at an international conference in Budapest where leading advocacy groups gathered to discuss the worldwide persecution of Christians.
About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world and many believers have been killed, detained, discriminated or abused, according to the respected Open Doors advocacy group. Rétvári noted that four-fifths of those persecuted for their faith are Christians. He said religious leaders in the Middle East have asked to help persecuted Christians in that region especially by providing humanitarian aid "rather than taking them in".
The leader of Syria's Catholic Church told BosNewsLife earlier that he has urged the West and the United Nations to immediately end sanctions against his country and to stop supporting rebels, saying this is the only way to find a solution to a war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan also urged Hungary to pressure the European Union and United Nations to end the war in his home country. "I still hope that the Western countries, that means the Western politicians, would accept to stop financing and arming so-called because
there would be otherwise no end to the sectarian war, " the Syrian church leader said.
Friday's conference was held in Hungary as it is the first country in the world to have opened a government department for persecuted Christians. Though behind-the-scenes talks are ongoing about Hungary accepting Christian refugees, government officials told BosNewsLife that the office
would focus especially on aid to Christians in their home countries and the region.
Hungary was among the first European Union countries to erect razor wire fences , backed by police and soldiers, to stop migrants fleeing war and poverty after some 400,000 people crossed its territory seeking a better life in more welcoming and prosperous Western nations. "I realize that these measures could have impacted Christians. However real refugees will always be welcome in Hungary," said Tamás Török, Hungary's deputy state secretary for combating persecution of Christians.
Rétvári noted that Hungary’s Parliament has passed a resolution in recent weeks "condemning the persecution of Christians and the activities of the Islamic State terrorist group."
The resolution also urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to qualify the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as "genocide". Rétvári said Hungary will launch a travelling exhibition throughout Europe about the persecution of Christians.
He urged participants attending the conference to adopt an action plan to aid persecuted Christians.
Török warned that Christian cultures were being "obliterated in the Middle East" and said the number of "religiously motivated terrorist attacks " was also rising within the EU.
He said the main aim of Hungary's secretariat for persecuted Christians is "to coordinate the government’s measures aimed at fighting the persecution of Christians and to
cooperate with the foreign ministry, churches, civil groups, the United Nations, the ICC and the European Parliament in this area."
Török expressed concern however that Europe is "not unified in fighting the
persecution of Christians", which he claimed was another reason why Hungary had
to set up a secretariat focused on this issue.
Christians were also persecuted for decades in Hungary till 1989 when Communism collapsed. The heavily Catholic nation of some 10 million people is now a member of the EU and NATO military alliance.