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Dispute over the use of a Christian banner

August 27th, 2018

Liberal and left-wing columnists criticize the government for displaying a flag depicting a cross on the Parliament building on August 20. Conservative commentators, on the other hand, find the critics of the flag paranoid and their comments absurd.

On August 20, the government for the first time decorated the Parliament building with Christian cross flags reminiscent of the banners of St. Stephen, but onto which white crosses had been superimposed. The cabinet office of the Prime Minister said that the flags were displayed in accordance with the spirit of Hungarys Fundamental Law which describes the protection of Christian values as important for the State.

In Népszava, György Sebes finds it sad that the government uses symbolic politics to boost its popularity. The left-wing columnist thinks that the government’s earlier ban on symbols of totalitarian regimes, taken together with its decision to display banners decorated with a cross on August 20, signal an attempt by the government to design and impose a new system of values and symbols which every Hungarian must follow.

Heti Világgazdaság’s András Hont accuses the government of hypocrisy. The liberal commentator suggests that while the government claims that it defends Christian values, in reality it violates the basic norms of Christianity. As an example, Hont mentions the government’s policies towards migrants, noting that the authorities no longer offer food to those migrants in the transit zones on the Serbian border whose asylum application have already been rejected. Hont also mentions that the government has supported the Kurultáj events which celebrates the putatively common pagan and nomadic heritage of eastern Turkic peoples and Hungarians. Hont finds it controversial that the government wants to defend Christian Europe and Hungary from mostly Muslim migrants, but at the same time, celebrates the common heritage of Hungarians and pagan nomadic peoples.

Tamás Pilhál in Pesti Srácok contends that liberals are suffering from a phobia towards national symbols. The (tiny) Liberal Party in a press release wrote that the display of the flag with the cross on the Parliament building is abhorrent, reminiscent of the interwar anti-Semitic Imrédy governments practice, which defended discriminatory anti-Jewish legislation with the pretext of the defence of Christian and national values. Pilhál finds it peculiar that despite their constant fear of Christian symbolism, left-wing and liberal intellectuals like to refer to Christian values when they criticize the government’s immigration policies.

Magyar Idők’s Zsolt Bayer calls the Left’s outrage over the flag a joke. The pro-government columnist thinks it absurd to suggest that Christian churches have any political power in Hungary. Bayer claims that the display of the flag with the cross is a ‘revolutionary act’ against the anti-national and anti-religious cosmopolitan Zeitgeist. Bayer goes so far as to suggest that critics of the flag want to destroy all traditions and identities and turn people into ‘liberal, gender-aware consumer zombies’. Pro-immigration critics of the Christian symbol have more affinity towards Muslim symbols than traditional Christian and Jewish ones, he claims.

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