Hungarys far-right leader using Christian message to justify his immigration policy
Europe can ignore or deny or struggle against its own identity and its Christian roots. But by doing so the society commits suicide, said Lszl Kiss-Rig, the bishop of Szeged, as he drove into Budapest on a recent afternoon. And the more migrants that come, the more Christian values will be watered down.
Christian values, or a particular interpretation of them, have become the centrepiece of Hungarian government messaging under its far-right leader, Viktor Orbn, and Kiss-Rig operates at the nexus of the prime ministers interests.
As well as his role as bishop, he is also the chairman of Szegeds local football team, which is owned by the church. He was in Budapest to make arrangements for the inaugural concert at a new multipurpose stadium, which will be opened later this summer with an appearance by Placido Domingo just one part of the massive investment that the football-mad Orbn has made into the sport.
On the matter of migration, and much else, Kiss-Rig and Orbn are singing from the same hymn sheet. The bishop denies, for example, that putting up walls to keep people out of the country doesnt fit with Christian values. Everyone who knocks at your door and asks admission is welcome to be examined. But people who jump into your house through the roof should be protected against, he said.
Now in his third consecutive term, Orbn has increasingly used far-right and anti-migrant rhetoric as he cements control of the country in increasingly authoritarian fashion. He used to describe his system as an illiberal democracy, but recently he has changed focus, preferring instead to call it a Christian democracy. The governments messaging is still based around stopping immigration and protecting a besieged Europe from outsiders, but it now comes in increasingly Christian packaging, both at home and abroad.
At a lavish party to mark US independence day in Budapest, Orbn told guests that finally, with the accession of Donald Trump, there was an overlap of values between the US and Hungary. Neither of us is willing to accept the hypocrisy of modern politics, which neglects the fact that Christianity is the most persecuted religion globally, he said. In a sign of just how much things have changed in the relationship over the past few years, Trumps ambassador David Cornstein called Orbn a perfect partner and arranged for his old friend, the singer Paul Anka, to serenade the Hungarian prime minister.
Trump himself lavished praise on Orbn during a May visit to the White House that ended years of isolation in which top US officials shunned Orbns government over rule-of-law concerns. You have been great with respect to Christian communities. You have really put a block up and we appreciate that very much, said Trump, apparently referring to the fence Orbns government has built along Hungarys southern border to keep out migrants.