Muslims Threaten Europe’s Christian Identity, Hungary’s Leader Says

Rick Noack, Washington Post, September 3, 2015

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has made nationalistic and controversial statements in the past. But with his country emerging as a main gateway for refugees trying to reach richer European nations, his words suddenly carry much heavier weight.

On Thursday, Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper published an op-ed by Orban in which he claimed that he was defending European Christianity against a Muslim influx by stopping thousands of refugees from leaving Hungary. “Everything which is now taking place before our eyes threatens to have explosive consequences for the whole of Europe,” he wrote in the op-ed. “We must acknowledge that the European Union’s misguided immigration policy is responsible for this situation.”

“We shouldn’t forget that the people who are coming here grew up in a different religion and represent a completely different culture. Most are not Christian, but Muslim . . . . That is an important question, because Europe and European culture have Christian roots,” he wrote.

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Orban has long used Hungary’s Christian past to foster support for his government and to create a feeling of unity among his backers. Amid slightly growing numbers of atheists in the country, a new financing system has allowed church-owned schools to proliferate since 2011. “I am led by the firm conviction that only on the basis of these traditions–these national, Christian and European traditions–can a strong and successful Hungary be built,” the prime minister was quoted as saying last year.

Moreover, since 2012, the country’s constitution has officially recognized “the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood.” The constitution’s wording leaves no doubt that Muslims and people with other religious beliefs are tolerated, but not necessarily welcome, in Hungary. {snip}

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In his op-ed, published Thursday, Orban made references to his past confrontations with other E.U. member states and institutions regarding the standing of Christianity in society. “[I]s it not already and in itself alarming that Europe’s Christian culture is barely in a position to uphold Europe’s own Christian values?” he asked, reflecting statements he has made in the past, when he called a lack of recognition for the European Union’s Christian roots “an open wound for millions in Europe to the present day.”

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