Christian churches back Jews facing anti-Semitism in Hungary

May 14, 2013

(Protestant pastor Lorant Hegedus hides behind the stage as his wife Eniko Kovacs Hegedus (unseen) steps up to speak, during a rally against World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly attended by hundreds of far-right supporters in Budapest May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

When Hungarian radical right-wingers rallied against a Jewish conference in Budapest in early May, a well-known Protestant pastor hid behind the stage while his wife stepped up to the podium to denounce Jews and Israel.

Lorant Hegedus could have preached the same anti-Semitism as his wife, a deputy for the populist Jobbik party in parliament. But his part in launching the rally may cost him his role as the far-right’s favorite clergyman.

With anti-Semitism on the rise here, Christian churches are working with the Jewish community to counter the provocations against Jews and the Roma minority that have won Jobbik support among voters fed up with the country’s economic crisis.

The Hungarian Reformed Church has begun proceedings that might end up defrocking Hegedus and depriving him of his high-profile base at the Homeland Church on the upscale Freedom Square, near the central bank and the United States embassy.

“This is a permanent provocation,” Gusztav Bolcskei, the Church’s presiding bishop, said of Hegedus’s political activity. “It has nothing to do with the Gospel.”

Hungary’s small community of 80,000-100,000 Jews appreciates the Christian support. “We’re satisfied with the actions of the churches,” said Peter Feldmajer, who stepped down as head of the community on Sunday.

“I think, at the end of the day, he will be fired,” he said. Hegedus declined to be interviewed for this article.

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