Hungarian Catholic priest attacked for aiding refugees

Zoltán Németh is a Roman Catholic priest in the town of Körmend (population: 12,400), located directly on the border with Austria. Fr. Németh did what would not raise a single eyebrow in western Europe, nor in North America: he simply offered basic help to a handful of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, giving them shelter in a building owned by his parish. The refugees were primarily Syrian Christians who had been housed at a nearby refugee camp in damp, cold tents, in the dead of winter. Fr. Németh intervened and decided to provide temporary housing to refugees next to his parish’s rectory. During the summer, the building is used as part of a youth camp, but it sits empty in the winter months. With lay volunteers working on the front line with the refugees, the pastor simply opened up space for a dozen or so asylum-seekers. The laity did the rest.

Three days later, the pastor is mulling whether to resign from the parish, after vicious verbal attacks from some parishioners and non-Catholics alike, and following almost no support from the Catholic Church of Hungary in general. A blog entitled SZEMLélek published an insightful interview with Fr. Németh, who said the following:

“Even those who do not attend church offered different types of assistance, in order to help those in need. At the moment we turn down all offers of financial assistance, as we do not currently need this. A few local teenagers asked to meet with the refugees and this was made possible not too long ago. The fears about the foreigners being sick or contagious are baseless. As I see it, they follow a healthier lifestyle than the average person and they are very careful not to catch something. We are the targets of plenty of criticism, even from churchgoers–some of whom labelled us as Soros-lackeys. The population in the town is divided on this subject and there are some who are slandering us. Our young chaplain for instance was cursed. These are strikes below the belt. We have the task of knocking down terribly high walls. Many of our faithful are harboring immense fear.”

Fr. Zoltán Németh

Fr. Zoltán Németh

The terribly high walls that Fr. Németh speaks about demolishing were erected by the current Fidesz government. Hungarian society, certainly when compared to other countries in the region, was broadly speaking fairly open to people of different backgrounds until relatively recently. In fact, a study by Tárki noted that in 1992–just two years after the fall of single party rule in Hungary–only 15% of Hungarians were xenophobic. In 2016, this proportion exploded to 58%, due in no small part to a government-sanctioned hate campaign against all refugees. A second study by Závecz Research found that a growing number of Hungarians don’t “only” dislike Muslims and foreigners, but they are suspicious of anyone who is different, or seen as “other.” For instance, 79% of Hungarians would not allow an Arab to move into their neighbourhood, while 65% do not want to live next to a Syrian Christian. Fully 55% would rather not have a homosexual as a neighbour, 53% want to keep the Chinese away and 50% of Hungarians would be unhappy if an American moved in close by. Furthermore, 43% of Hungarians want to keep Jews out their neighbourhood and one fourth of Hungarians would not want Translyvanian Hungarians as neighbours either. The proportion of Hungarians who want to keep the Roma out of their neighbourhoods stands at 68%.

“It is increasingly difficult to defend the claim that we are not xenophobes,” said Fr. Németh, and then added: “Austria is but an arm’s length away, yet the contrast is striking. We were able to engage in meaningful, calm dialogue with the minister responsible for refugees and migrants. I would be very happy to get support and reassurance from the leaders of our Church. But perhaps I am not fulfilling my duties appropriately and if this is the case, then I should consider resigning from the parish.”

Fr. Németh added that there are national and international precedents for church communities leading these grassroots initiatives to help those in need.

“The desire to offer help appeared in 1989 too, when East Germans were fleeing west. At the time, Hungarian authorities turned to us, the Church, for help–but, of course, they did so quietly–in order to support these people. I have been to South America, including to Argentina,and it is now easier for to understand the Pope’s enthusiasm for inclusion. Our hosts were poor people, who went barefoot, yet they roasted a pig for us, in our honour. In Paraguay, during breakfasts, the President of the Republic would show up without any fanfare. Later, he would invite the Hungarian delegation to his offices. It is this culture of inclusion that drives Pope Francis,” remarked Fr. Németh.

And it is this culture of inclusion that has been all but stamped out of Hungary in recent years.

14 Comments

  1. Well let Fr. Németh come to Western Europe to see those third world “saints”. This frater is one of those misguided people, who think this is “christian”.

    Allowing our teenagers come in touch with those people is irresponsible to say the least.

    I know this is a liberal left article and it doesn’t surprise me, but it is far from reality. Mr Adam himself should come to all those no-go zones all over Western Europe and talk to all those native people who suffer from this third world invasion.

    BTW just a truck run into a Christmas market for adults with their childeren and please do not call this a incident. Look at the crime figures in Germany alone in the last year.

  2. 1. I disapprove of mass migration and think mass refugee movement is a dead end street.

    2. I find disgusting the position of the Hungarian main churches and appalling the behavior of these “Christians”. Those hateful hypocrites are far from giving even their old shirts to anyone; instead they are actively causing additional suffering.

    So much for the alleged Christian society, it’s just another bald faced lie.
    If anything, it is a dark Middle Ages Christianity.

  3. Robert Henderson says:

    Hi Chris, l am English and my friend is Hungarian born in the UK we have a house in a small village not far from Kormend. There are German, Swiss and what the locals refer to ‘the Muslim house’ but l have never seen them.

  4. Robert Henderson says:

    …. I forgot to mention..also Romanian , please add to the previous list.

  5. Pingback: Parishioners Condemn Hungarian Catholic Priest For Helping Refugees | Christian Conservative Daily

  6. what would not raise a single eyebrow in western Europe, nor in North America

    France – Charlie Hebdo 2015.
    Germany – Cartoons arson 2015.
    Belgium – Verviers 2015.
    France – Nice 2015.
    Denmark – Copenhagen cafe 2015.
    Denmark – Copenhagen synagogue 2015.
    USA – Terrence Lavaron Thomas 2015.
    Austria – Vienna murder 2015.
    South Africa – Zainub Priya Dala 2015.
    France – Aurelie Chatelain 2015.
    USA – Muhammed cartoon contest 2015.
    USA – Boston 2015.
    Austria – Graz SUV attack 2015.
    France – Factory beheading 2015.
    USA – Chattanooga 2015.
    France – train attack 2015.
    Germany – Berlin 2015.
    Denmark – asylum seeker 2015.
    Australia – Sydney 2015.
    France – Schoolboy 2015.
    USA – University of California 2015.
    France – Paris massacre 2015.
    France – Marseille 2015.
    UK – apostate 2015.
    USA – San Bernardino massacre 2015.
    UK – Leytonstone tube 2015.
    France – soldiers at mosque 2016.
    France – Paris police station 2016.
    USA – Philadelphia 2016.
    France – Marseille 2016.
    UK – Brixton 2016.
    USA – Ohio restaurant 2016.
    Germany – Hanover stabbing 2016.
    Belgium – Brussels bombings 2016.
    UK – Asad Shah 2016.
    Germany – Essen bombing 2016.
    Germany – Grafing stabbing 2016.
    UK – Brighton 2016.
    UK – London supermarket 2016.
    USA – gay nightclub massacre 2016.
    France – Policeman and family 2016.
    France – Rennes 2016.
    France – Nice truck massacre 2016.
    Germany – train axe attack 2016.
    France – stabbing of children 2016.
    UK – RAF base attack 2016.
    Germany – Ansbach suicide bombing 2016.
    France – Normandy church attack 2016.
    UK – Russell Square 2016.
    Belgium – Charleroi 2016.
    Canada – Aaron Driver 2016.
    France – Strasbourg 2016.
    USA – Roanoke stabbing 2016.
    Australia – Queensland 2016.
    Germany – Oberhausen stabbing 2016.
    France – Toulouse stabbing 2016.
    Denmark – Christiania 2016.
    France – Ghislain Gilberti 2016.
    Australia – Minto 2016.
    Holland – Gay stabbing 2016.
    USA – Minnesota mall 2016.
    USA – NY and NJ bombings 2016.
    Belgium – Brussels stabbing 2016.
    Germany – Hamburg 2016.
    Australia – Melbourne bank attack 2016.
    USA – Ohio State attack 2016.

    and the latest, only yesterday
    Turkey – murder of the Russian ambassador
    Germany – Berlin truck 2016

  7. … maybe would not raise an eyebrow, but did raise Trump as POTUS.

  8. To come up with such a strikingly biased pro-migrant anti-Hungarian accusatory propaganda less than a day after the murder of 12 people in Berlin by Muslim fanatics is a new low even by this site’s standards.

  9. @ Liladiadal

    According to the best statisticians in the US you have a 10 times greater chance of being struck by lighting than a jihadist.Why not carpet-bomb weathermen. Huh ?

    90% of jihadist terrorists are the followers of Muhammad rather than Christ. Kill the victims. Huh ?

    May humanity survive the rising tide of ignorant, cheesy little racists like you.

  10. To be called racist by a Hungary-bashing leftliberal cretin crawling out from under a rock is something I can live with, may you enjoy the special attention of the next Allahu akbar-shouting savage.

  11. Robert Henderson says:

    Wishing all a very happy and peaceful Christmas / Festive season.

  12. Pingback: Morning Catholic must-reads: 21/12/16 | CHRONICA

  13. @ Liladiadal

    Being called “a Hungary-bashing leftliberal cretin crawling out from under a rock” is something I can not only live with, but be entertained by. Do send us more examples of your creative genius, but please do not add profanities because we cannot guarantee, that it will get published. 🙂 We are delighted that you have found the fine writing on this site, inspirational. Normally we do not accept donations, but in your case we might consider making an exception. Please give generously 🙂

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