Dear Chairman Mr. Benny Elon, Executive Director Mr. Willem Griffioen! Thank you for your kind invitation! Dear Honorable Congressmen, Ladies and Gentlemen!
First of all, allow me to especially thank the American Congressmen for all those American Christian believers, who during the Communist dictatorship, despite the dangers, built up and strengthened our faith and hope in the deliverence of the Lord. The fact that I am here today is greatly attributable to them.
Our relationship towards Israel and the Jewish people was always based on the following principles:
1. To justify and communicate that the gathering of the Jewish People and Israel’s existence has a prophetic, spiritual significance. (In Europe, many consider the existence of the State of Israel the result of the Shoah.)
2. To justify Israel’s historical right to the Promised Land and to Jerusalem.
3. To expose and correct the mistakes of Replacement Theology. (In Europe, the basis for many anti-Jewish actions was Christian anti-Judaism.)
4. To communicate that the State of Israel is best positioned to effectively guarantee the sanctity and accessiblity of the Holy Sites.
5. To present the everyday life of modern Israel and support the friendship between Hungary and Israel.
6. To represent the realistic avenues and potential of an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
7. To emphasize the positive role that Hungarian Jews played in the history and present of the Hungarian nation and to fight against anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic organizations and movements.
During the underground era of our church, we could only promote theses principles to the members of our congregation. At this time, a cooperation began with the democratic opposition, among them Jewish and Zionist activists. We believed that it is a fundamental moral requirement for Hungarians to face the legacy of the dictatorships which were in place for 70 years before and after the Second World War.
In the beginning of the 1990s we restored many delapidated Jewish cemeteries all around Hungary.
In 1946, Hungary acknowledged the responsibility of the Hungarian government and society for the Holocaust, but the topic of this national and Jewish tragedy remained taboo. For this reason, in the major cities of Hungary, we organized educational lectures and commemoration events about the Holocaust, involving reputable intellectuals and public figures. Another goal of these commemoration events was to establish a popular resistance against the advancement of the Skinhead movement.
In the 1990s, certain members of our church became members of parliament and effectively lobbied for Jewish restitution and the advancement of Israeli-Hungarian relations. However, due to our active political involvement we were attacked frequently, especially during election campaigns. For this reason, we drew back from party politics and took up a greater role in the field of education and the media.
In our primary and secondary schools and our state-accredited theological seminary, we educate young people based on the above mentioned principles. Our schools maintain diverse relations with Israeli and Hungarian Jewish educational institutions.
Politicians pay attention to public opinion, and we believe it is more effective to influence public opinion through professional media activity. Our weekly journal, Hetek, is one of the ten most popular Hungarian newspapers. The newspaper regularly analyses the events concerning Israel and the Middle-East. The journal is read by politicians and Members of the Hungarian Parliament.
We are the majority shareholders of Hungary’s largest news television channel. ATV reaches 85% of Hungarian households, to our total of 5.4 million regular viewers in the region. During military conflicts in the Middle-East, the channel especially feels responsible to counteract the popular anti-Israel propaganda. There are only two Christian shows on ATV, the 700 Club and the live, interactive broadcast of the services of Faith Church. Every week, viewers send in hundreds of comments and questions to these programs, which gives us a further opportunity to fight against anti-Zionism. In addition to this, atv.hu news and public affairs portal attracts 100 to 150 thousand individual viewers every day. Professional articles and videos appear at prime spots here, creating a better understanding of the complex issues concerning Israel.
In regards to our cultural activities, I would like to emphasize book publishing. We regularly publish books concerning Israel, for example, in Hungarian, we published the books of Dore Gold, Natan Sharansky, and Efraim Zuroff. Just recently we published the book titled Start-Up Nation, which became a national bestseller. We produced several documentaries on Israel, showing the Holy Sites and the achievements of the modern State of Israel. Besides ATV, these documentaries were also aired on other television channels in Hungary.
We try to positively influence public opinion through organizing conferences, public affairs forums, professional-, tourism- and sports events. Since 1992 we regularly organize trips to Israel. In 1996 we conducted a conference in Jerusalem with the participation of thousands of Christians and well-known Hungarian politicians and public figures. We regularly organize popular Israel Days in Budapest and in other cities in Hungary. Over the last few years, Elie Wiesel, Natan Sharansky and Rabbi Benny Elon spoke at these events.
At our youth camps each summer, Jewish and Israeli professionals regularly lecture on current Israeli issues.
We took part in the international Nazi-hunting efforts of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Members of Faith Church helped locate two notorious Hungarian Nazi war criminals.
We have a wide-spread cooperation with Hungarian Jewish communities as well. We jointly organized protests and mass demonstrations against the anti-Semitic incidents, which were in existance already in the 1990s. After 2006, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism strengthened in Hungary, which can be tied to an anti-Semitic party called Jobbik. In December of 2012 we organized a mass demonstration against them and and on 3rd November, 2013, we organized a flash-mob demonstration against the ceremonial unveiling of the statue of the anti-Semitic Hungarian governor prior to the Second World War. These demonstrations attracted local and international media attention.
Extremist parties try to use the economic crisis. They poison those in extreme poverty with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda. For this reason, in addition to trying to improve the financial circumstance of these people, through our publications and programs we also aim to counter-act anti-Semitism among them.
We help establish relations between Hungarian and Israeli politicians, business professionals and public figures through networking events. One result of this networking was that the law against Holocaust-denial was initiated after an Israeli delegation of politicians led by Mr. Benny Elon met with leading Hungarian politicians.
Besides slurring the Jewish people and Israel, Hungarian anti-Semites also attack and defame those who stand up for the Jewish people and Israel. Early next year, we will have several court cases against the leaders of the far-right party.
Our plans for the immediate future include participation at the 70th year commemoration events of the Hungarian Holocaust. We are intiating a national effort to inform about and popularize Israel, Jerusalem and the history and the goals of Zionism. Budapest is one of the birthplaces of political Zionism, as Theodore Herzl was born in Hungary. In respect for his life and work, the Herzl Center will open its doors in Budapest on the 1st of December, 2013.
In our relationship towards Israel and Jewish people, the words of the Apostle John guide us: „Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
Thank you for your attention. May God Bless the United States of America, Israel and Hungary and the Israel Allies Foundation!