During the question-and-answer session with the government in the National Assembly on December 7, referring to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Hungary, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ararat Mirzoyan cited the financial support provided by the Hungarian government in the past years.
It should be reminded that Armenia suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary in 2012, when the country extradited Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani officer convicted for the brutal murder of Armenian lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan in Hungary in 2004. The latter was released upon his return to Azerbaijan and received state awards.
“…Along with those events, we also remember the efforts made by Hungary in December of last year towards the release of 5 Armenian prisoners of war. The representatives of the Hungarian authorities personally arrived in Baku and came to Yerevan together with the 5 prisoners of war… We also cannot help but notice the support of the Hungarian authorities in the fight against COVID-19. If I recall correctly, they provided 100,000 doses of vaccine, and that saved more lives. There are a number of other examples, like the financial support that the Hungarian government provided to the Armenian Apostolic Church, quite significant financial support,” Mirzoyan said.
After this announcement, “Azg” newspaper wrote that “they were not aware that the Armenian Apostolic Church is silent in the face of enormous financial aid”.
“…We knew that the Armenian Catholic Church was renovated in Budapest, and they gave Orbán a medal, but that the Armenian Apostolic Church is silent in the face of enormous financial aid was something we did not know…”
The Fact Investigation Platform tried to identify what kind of financial support the Hungarian government provided to the Armenian Apostolic Church and whether they considered this assistance as an aid to the Armenian community, its national minority.
Hungary provided financial support to the Diocese of Gegharkunik
In response to the written inquiry by FIP.am, Director of the Information System of the Armenian Apostolic Church Priest Yesai Artenyan informed that “in recent years, the Hungarian government has regularly provided financial support to Christian churches, particularly the churches of the Middle East, including the Armenian Apostolic Church, for the purpose of implementing spiritual, social and educational programs”.
“Similar assistance was given to the Armenian dioceses of Iraq and Damascus, and at the beginning of this year also for the renovation of the Armenian House of the Gegharkunik Diocese,” the Armenian Apostolic Church notes, without elaborating on the amount of money.
Earlier, Tristan Azbej, State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians of Hungary, in a joint interview with the Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary, Zsolt Semjen, stated that the Hungarian government was the first administration in the world to raise the issue of helping persecuted Christians at the state level.
“In recent years, within the framework of the Hungarian aid program, the Hungarian government has supported the restoration of the damaged school of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Syria, the restoration of the church in Zakhu, Iraq, and provided assistance to Armenian Catholic families in Lebanon. In Armenia, we have supported the humanitarian and charitable works of the Armenian Apostolic Church and religious non-governmental organizations,” said Tristan Azbej.
Thus, the Armenian Apostolic Church confirms the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ararat Mirzoyan. The Hungarian government did support the renovation of churches, particularly the Armenian dioceses of Iraq and Damascus, and it also participated in the renovation of the Armenian House of the Gegharkunik Diocese.
The aid does not derive from the Hungarian constitution
On December 9, Vice-President of the Republican Party of Armenia Armen Ashotyan referred to Hungary’s support during the Pressing program, noting that support was provided to the Armenian Apostolic Church because according to the Hungarian constitution, national minorities, including Armenians, have certain rights.
“…Because he recognized Armenians as a national minority. It is not the merit of the current authorities, it is the merit of our compatriots… That constitution did us no favors by giving money to churches,” Ashotyan said, adding that there are more than 20 Armenian churches in Hungary and Romania.
In the constitution of Hungary, it is stated that the country commmits to “promoting and safeguarding our heritage, our unique language, Hungarian culture, the languages and cultures of nationalities living in Hungary, along with all man-made and natural assets of the Carpathian Basin.”
In fact, the Hungarian constitution only provides for the protection of material and non-material cultural heritage of other nations located in its territory. It does not stipulate that the country is obliged to preserve the culture of its national minorities in other countries outside its borders.
In fact, Armen Ashotyan’s observation that the support mentioned by Mirzoyan to the Armenian Apostolic Church was derived solely from the commitment towards the Armenians as a national minority under the constitution of that country is not correct, because the Hungarian government also allocated financial support to the Armenian dioceses of Iraq, Damascus and the Gegharkunik Diocese.