Hungary priest condemns Orban’s ‘Christian’ claims

Hungary priest condemns Orban’s ‘Christian’ claims

Pastor Gabor Ivanyi (pictured), president of the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship, a small Methodist church which battled communism during the 1970s and 1980s, has condemned the populist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. 

In early December, Ivanyi’s advent message was modelled on the German Barmen Declaration of 1934, which denounced the Nazi takeover of the German church. It rejected Orban’s claims to be leading a religious government, devoted to “Christian liberty”.

“This government has nothing in common with Christianity,” Ivanyi said. “People may revile Christ because of what it does.”

Denouncing Orban’s centralisation of power and the marginalisation of minority groups, Ivanyi and allies wrote: “We are calling for resistance to an arrogance of power that makes the concept of ‘Christian liberty’ a slogan for exclusionary, hate-filled and corrosive policy; a power that destroys the social fabric … that systematically threatens democracy and the rule of law. True Christian freedom is always threatened by a politics that separates and isolates. The authoritarian exercise of power is spreading around the world but especially before our eyes in Hungary.”

Former allies from the pre-1989 struggle, Ivanyi baptised two of Orban’s children and renewed the aspiring politician’s marriage vows in his church during the 1990s, which proved key to winning the Christian right’s support. 

But in 2011, state funding for the Evangelical Fellowship was withdrawn as their relationship soured. 

“We are ringing the alarm bell. Of course, there are differences between now and the 1930s but it is the similarities we should focus on. Orban wants to become the charismatic leader of a nationalist European right. He talks about the restoration of lands Hungary lost at Versailles after the First World War, 100 years ago. That’s dangerous. He is a child playing with something that once made Europe burn.

“He is turning the Christian message on its head,” said Ivanyi. “Is there any other Christian country in the world where it is written in the constitution that you can be jailed for being homeless? Is it a Christian country where asylum seekers are not given the basic resources they need to survive? Is it Christian to use power to abolish media freedoms, the independence of judges and academic autonomy?

“In ancient Israel, the prophets spoke out against corruption and wickedness. We are now compelled to speak out. We might not be Isaiahs or Jeremiahs. But we take courage from their example.”


Pastor Gabor Ivanyi. Picture credit: Wikimedia



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