Orban has called for the implementation of “cross border reunification of the Hungarian nation,” a clear reference to the two-thirds of territory it lost after World War One.
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Orban made the controversial comments in front of the Parliament building in Budapest, as Hungary observed the August 20th National Holiday to commemorate its founder, King St. Stephen, who introduced Christianity here exactly 1000 years ago.
The event was meant as a more joyful end of 20-months of festivities, ceremonies and prayer services in which Hungary marked its bloodstained and troubled first millennium as a nation. It included several lost wars and lost revolutions, such as the 1956 anti-Communist fight for freedom, which was crushed by the Soviet Union.
Hungarian analyst Tamas S. Kiss, who attended some of the ceremonies, told BosNewsLife that in a country with so many lost struggles, King St. Stephen is one the most important heroes.
But as the St. Stephen ceremonies began, diplomats from neighboring countries seemed to have few reasons to celebrate, as they listened to Prime Minister Orban’s speech. “Until now, to be born as a Hungarian outside Hungary’s borders in the Carpathian basin meant a bitter fate – being second-rate, contempt, being ridiculed,” he said in a televised speech.
“From now on we shall implement the cross border reunification of the Hungarian nation,” Orban added, referring to the millions of ethnic Hungarians living in nearby nations.
The speech seemed to overshadow, but not stop, attempts by Hungarian church leaders to keep politics out of events commemorating Hungary’s first King, who received his crown from Pope Sylvester II in the year 1000.
Now, one full millennium later, St. Stephen’s crown is on display in the Hungarian Parliament building. Former United States President Jimmy Carter returned the crown to Hungary, after it was taken from the country following World War Two.
In addition even St. Stephen’s preserved right hand is on display. Catholic clergy even carried it through the streets of Budapest Monday from the St. Stephen Basilica, which was officially handed over to the Catholic Church last week.
Some Protestant leaders have criticized these kind of ceremonies, saying that the churches do not need a hand to be reminded of what Christ is doing in His world.
However Pope John Paul II said last week that the country’s “deep spiritual conviction should help today’s Hungarians to base a prosperous future upon the traditions of the country’s Christian past. ” Despite the Vatican’s support for the celebrations, Hungarian opposition politicians have criticized the Government for spending millions of dollars on huge millennium
One event included placing St. Stephen’s crown on board a Danube River vessel last week, from where it sailed back and forth to the small town of Esztergom, which is seen as Hungary’s Catholic Capital. The center right Hungarian Government has defended the expenditures, saying that the people should celebrate as the country prepares for what many people hope will be a more peaceful millennium for Hungary.
“Neither a family nor a nation can be built with arrogance and hatred,” said Imre Szebik, president-bishop of Hungary’s Evangelical Church, at a Protestant church service to close the millennium. “We must know that we are not better than any other nation, though we are not worse than the others either,” he said.
Former Communist Hungary became a full NATO member two years ago, and hopes to join the European Union by 2004.