There are a few countries that seemingly have dual personalities. To read about the country in one forum gives a particular viewpoint, while in other sources, the picture is starkly different.
Consider how the New York Times writes about Hungary. Here is a selection of its headlines over the recent past:
- “What Happened to Hungary?” (Opinion 9/16/18)
- “Hungary’s Democracy is in Danger, E.U. Parliament Decides” (9/12/18)
- “E.U.’s Leadership Seeks to Contain Hungary’s Orban” (9/11/18)
- “Hungary’s Leader was Shunned by Obama, but Has a Friend in Trump” (8/15/18)
- “Hungary Criminalizes Aiding Illegal Immigrants” (6/20/18)
The Times paints the country in a very unflattering light. It states that the country is run by a tyrant, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and is the worst illiberal democracy in the European Union.
But a very different picture of Hungary was touted by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. On September 28, 2018, Haley spoke about the plight of religious persecution around the world in places like Burma and South Sudan. While she highlighted the problems in the Middle East, she contrasted the incredible work that Hungary was doing to protect Christians.
“Today, we shine a spotlight on persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. Hungary has provided an example for all of us in the work it has done to support persecuted minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.
Hungary is on the ground, doing the hard work of caring for a too often overlooked population. Hungary is helping rebuild homes, hospitals, schools, and churches in Iraq, Lebanon, and other parts of the Middle East. And they’re taking the long view in helping protect and preserve religious pluralism in the Middle East. Its scholarship program for Christians from conflict-affected countries is giving persecuted minorities a high-quality education that they can take back home and use it to rebuild their communities. We all should be grateful for Hungary’s leadership on this issue. This is good and honorable work – not just because so many people are denied their right to worship, but because defending that right makes for a safer and more peaceful world for all of us.”
Can a country be both saintly and illiberal? Can it fight against illegal immigrants at home while attempting to rebuild the shattered lives of the immigrants’ homeland?
Is this simply two sides of the same coin, when viewed through the lens of Christian Identity?
Orban said “Let us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal. Liberal democracy is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal: it is, if you like, illiberal.” Orban advanced the notion that there are different types of democracy in the world, and religious democracies have a different framework than those based on the separation of church and state. He doesn’t dispute the charge that his democracy is illiberal; he states that it is a completely different type of democracy.
Perhaps like Turkey’s Recep Erdogan who fights for Muslims, Orban views his form of religious democracy in a particular framework, which is why Orban gave Erdogan such a warm welcome to his country on October 8. Both Orban and Erdogan appreciate the unique nature of their respective countries (Christian for Hungary and Islamic for Turkey) and want to keep it that way. It’s very much about democracy within a framework of particularism and not about liberal universalism.
Hungary can attempt to achieve this as it is predominantly a Christian country. It is roughly 71% Christian, 27% undeclared, with a few percentage of other. Turkey has an easier time, with 99% of the population being Muslim. Either way, there are few minorities to feel actively betrayed.
However, the younger generation in each country is less religious and more secular than the older generation. The younger people seek less religion in their lives and certainly do not want any religion imposed by their government. But both Orban and Erdogan are betting that even the younger generation will still be proud of their religious identity.
Being proud may mean asserting an illiberal nationalistic identity at home, or it may mean fighting for people with whom they share an identity abroad. Asserting a Christian identity alarms the E.U. and liberals in the U.S.A. when it comes to Hungary, but is given a wide pass when asserted by Turkey regarding Islam. In regards to fighting for Christians or Muslims being persecuted abroad, all people – including the US Ambassador to the United Nations – can easily show support.
What do you think – Is Hungary evil or saintly, and how does it compare to Turkey?
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