By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) - Hungary says it has already supported hundreds of thousands of persecuted Christians worldwide as believers face the worst crackdown in modern history.
The announcement came while advocacy group Open Doors revealed that a record-breaking 360 million Christians experienced persecution in 2021, a rise of 100 million in two years.
Hungary’s anti-migration government, which launched the world’s first government agency dedicated to persecuted Christians, said it helped 500,000 “persecuted people” over the last five years.
State Secretary Tristan Azbej explained that his Hungary Helps program for persecuted Christian encouraged those facing persecution to stay in their homeland. And “sometimes it was successful in reversing migration,” he claimed.
Azbej said about 1,000 families returned to war-torn Syria with Hungarian assistance. Hungary has also rebuilt churches and schools in countries such as Syria, Worthy News learned.
Azbej added that Syria’s Christian community, which numbered 2.3 million people before the civil war, shrunk to less than one million.
He expressed in published remarks that “although there was no more fighting over the larger part of Syria, residents suffered from an economic collapse and deep poverty.”
Many left the country, “but local Christians cling to their homeland, which is among the oldest sites of Christianity,” the state secretary noted.
Yet the Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of 50 nations where it says Christians face most persecution suggested that more countries have to support Christians as thousands died.
Of the 360 million Christians facing persecution, Afghanistan’s believers are confronted with the worst crackdown, according to Open Doors.
Afghanistan replaced North Korea as the number 1 persecution nation on the WWL following last year’s takeover by the Islamist Taliban group. The Taliban introduced a strict interpretation of Islam under which Christians face imminent death.
U.S. officials have expressed concern that Islamists have access to documents revealing those who converted to Christianity. It is believed that many murders go unreported.
The Taliban kill identified men on the spot, rape Christian women or force them to marry, according to sources familiar with the situation.
North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, and Nigeria follow Afghanistan on a sliding scale on the WWL.
The Christian persecution recorded by Open Doors is in line with other reports, including from a British government commission, which reportedly found Christian persecution reaching “near genocide levels.“
In 2021, almost 6,000 Christians were killed for their faith in Christ, according to rights investigators.
The number increased by 24 percent compared to the previous year, when less than 5,000 cases were recorded. Eight out of ten Christians killed were from Nigeria.
The number of closed, attacked, or destroyed churches have also increased by more than 600 cases, Open Doors said. The number of Christians detained for their faith reasons increased by 44 percent, according to WWL researchers.
Hungary’s government has made clear it wants to continue supporting persecuted Christians, in part to avoid more migration towards Europe.
Hungarian right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán noted that people had questioned whether it made sense to help persecuted Christians as Hungarians comprise just “0.2 percent” of the world’s population.
“Is there any point in a nation of this size taking a stance and standing up for a cause? Our answer is ‘yes,’” Orbán said in previous statements.
“When we raised an action against the persecution of Christians to the level of state policy, who would have thought that a few years later so many of us would be here in Budapest?“ he told a conference on Christian persecution.
However, “In their day, the Twelve Apostles surely accounted for a smaller percentage of the world’s population than we Hungarians do today; yet here we all are,” Orbán stressed.