Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered a Christmas message on December 23rd calling on the Hungarian people to respect their Christian traditions. It garnered much attention because of its defiant tone toward the European Union and its policies of multiculturalism.

Orbán stated, “We Europeans … live in a culture furnished by Christ’s teachings … We Hungarians rightly regard ourselves as a Christian nation.” The Prime Minister quoted József Antall, the first Prime Minister of post-communist Hungary: “In Europe, even atheists are Christian.”

But after 25 years, EU politicians and bureaucrats have rejected Antall’s philosophical observation. The EU policy of using the Schengen open borders arrangement to ease non-Christian migrants and refugees into Christian states is the point of conflict. Many EU politicians believe the EU is a new civilization, and that introducing non-Christian settlers will erase vestiges of the old civilization. For his part, Orbán is not buying it.

According to Mark’s gospel, Christ’s second commandment says ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ … Loving ourselves also means taking and protecting what we are and who we are.”

Orbán has been labeled a fascist by critics in left-wing social media, diplomatically seconded by western EU politicians. Erecting and policing a fence along Hungary’s southern border saved the nation from being inundated in 2015. But the EU has slapped Hungary with a court order to comply with migrant settlement or face legal consequences in 2018. Orbán had a poignant reply to the bureaucrats:

To love ourselves means that we love our country, our nation, our family, Hungarian culture and (Christian) European civilization. Within these frameworks, our freedom, the Hungarian freedom, unfolded and re-emerged again and again.”

What does Orbán mean by “unfolded and re-emerged”? Listeners may think of recent history, when Hungary chafed under communism for over 45 years. However, Hungary’s role as the battlefield for Christian and European civilization is nearly 15 times as old.

It was in 1366 that King Louis of Hungary first clashed with the Ottoman Turks. It heralded a conflict that really did not terminate until the final peace of Sistova in 1791. These 425 years of warfare turned populous, wealthy Hungary into an uninhabited desert. It became a battleground of two civilizations struggling for supremacy.

Hungarian refugees fled to the edges of their kingdom, seeking protection from the Holy Roman Emperors on one side, and the forests of Transylvania on the other. In the midst, violent Janissaries carried off the boys to become fanatical Islamic soldiers, while the girls became harem slaves. To this day, some village churches still bear the crescent of the Islamic conqueror as a reminder of what befell their nation. Hungary cannot forget its history. It is branded on their souls.

And this is why Prime Minister Orbán has been so defiant of the EU diktat. If Brussels cannot understand his motives, it is because it has not endured the yoke of Islam for as long as Hungary. Indeed, Brussels’ experience with a hostile non-Christian population is only beginning. Who can say what their feelings be like in 425 years?


Sidney Petron is a historian and political analyst currently situated in New Haven, Connecticut.

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