Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Putting the Current European Migrant Crisis Into Perspective: Providing Clarity and Truth by Drawing From the Hungarian Experience

A long line of migrants walking to Europe in huge hordes.
The hordes of migrants pouring into Europe. Photo: The Geller Report/Germany has 7,000
JIHAD TERROR SUSPECTS who are ‘almost IMPOSSIBLE’ to track

Recently I read a blog post from the Hungarian government website, No, the Hungarian refugees of 1956 are not the same as today's migrants. When I had first seen it, the title immediately caught my attention and reading it proved to be time well spent. The author, Zoltán Kovács, put the current European migrant crisis into perspective by referring to the Hungarian experience, debunking in the process the false parallel drawn by some that the two groups are the same.

I thought it fitting to write about Kovács's blog post seeing how it closely connects with my previous post, Viktor Orbán: A True Leader of and for the People of Hungary and Hungary's Constitution The Fundamental Law of HungaryHungary, under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has emerged as one of the leading countries fighting against illegal immigration, and the European Union's imposition of its "mandatory quota system."

Anyone who is somewhat well read on the history of Hungary will recognize the truth asserted in the title of Kovács's blog post. It is a truth that Kovács elaborated on with four main points, preceded by a brief description of the circumstances of the 1956 Revolution, that led to two-hundred thousand Hungarians leaving their homeland.

What Kovács has effectively done is deflect the criticism that Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—whose most noteworthy speech of March 15, 2016 captured the nationalistic sentiments of the Hungarian people—has received regarding Hungary's immigration policy and the closure of its southern border with Serbia.

The departure of 200,000 Hungarian refugees in 1956

Kovác's blog post begins with a brief history of the event that led to two-hundred thousand Hungarians fleeing from Hungary. It all began on October 23, 1956, when Hungarian university students demonstrated against the Communist Hungarian government—asserting the right to be independent from all foreign powers and that Hungarians should enjoy the rights of free people in a democratic system—and provoked a violent response.


Students demonstrating, and later joined by others, at Eötvös Loránd University, Józef Bem monument in Budapest on October 23, 1956
Eötvös Loránd University, Józef Bem monument in Budapest on October 23, 1956, where students began to
demonstrate against the Communist government. Photo: Bojár Sándor

That day the students were joined by others and as the numbers grew, the demonstration had encompassed much of Budapest. By nightfall, the State Security Police, fired and killed several demonstrators outside the state radio building.

This demonstration ushered in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Many believed it would bring freedom to Hungary, only to be met by the sad reality of the Soviet Union's response—that effectively crushed the revolution—which took many from a feeling of euphoria to despair. The result was that people once again began to live in fear, unable to speak and live freely.

The Soviet Union sent Red Army enforcements into Hungary, adding to those already there, bringing the total force to seventeen divisions. The attack against the people began on November 4, and with the overwhelming force of Soviet tanks, artillery, and air strikes, the revolution was crushed.

The violence and repression became too much for many, resulting in the departure of two-hundred thousand Hungarians from their homeland, most of whom arrived in Austria. It was the largest wave of refugees in Europe's post-World War II history and inflicted a terrible loss on Hungary.

The false parallels between the 1956 Hungarian refugees and the migrant crisis that escalated in 2015

Kovács went on to deflect any parallels between the Hungarian refugees of 1956 and today's Middle Eastern "refugees."

He argues that the real purpose why some consider both groups the "same," and have tried to draw a parallel between the two, is to criticize Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian government for the building of fencing on its borders—securing Hungary from massive waves of so-called Middle Eastern "refugees" in the process—and Hungary's policy to limit immigration. Kovács sums up their criticism, "In short, they say, when Hungarians fleeing the Soviet crack down were welcomed with open arms in 1956, how can Hungary be so cold in its response to today’s migrants?" Kovács responded to this with the following:
It’s a seductive argument; afterall, people love a neat parallel. And any reasonable person can see similarities. Millions of Syrians have fled a civil war of unspeakable brutality and some of them are among the migrants attempting to come to Europe. But all things considered, this argument doesn’t hold up. The two are simply not the same.
Kovács expanded upon why that argument "doesn't hold up," with four compelling points: first, they are two very different groups connected by very different events; second, there is the question of security and the connection between migration and terrorism; third, the concern for basic law and order when crossing the border into a host country; and fourth, that the subject of borders is also a matter of cultural frontiers.


Hungarian refugees in 1956 boarding a train for Austria
Hungarian refugees in 1956 boarding a train for Austria. Photo: Website of the Hungarian Government/About Hungary Blog

They are two very different groups connected by very different events

In 1956, those fleeing Hungary did so as a result of one major event, the brutal crackdown by the Soviet Union. The Hungarians fleeing the country were people who were trying to escape the violence and in many cases the threat of reprisals. To put a fine point on it Kovács stated, "There was no question about their nationality and the reason for their crossing the border. It was a homogenous group of people with a clear story."

This has not been the case with Europe's current migrant crisis. In early 2015, those attempting to cross the European Union's Schengen border into southern Hungary, were illegals from Kosovo. Add to this the more recent flow of "refugees" from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, northern Africa and Syria.

Many do not have the proper documentation! Others claim to be Syrian migrants, lying in the process, and do so because it is perceived to be more advantageous; that is, a Syrian national has a better chance at receiving asylum. Some are fleeing war, but there are those who are simply "economic migrants," taking advantage of the current crisis. Together they all comprise a heterogenous group that are very difficult to document.

The question of security and the connection between migration and terrorism

The Islamic State has boasted about exploiting the migrant crisis and weak border controls to move operatives in and out of Europe. Kovács cites a few examples.


Immigrants escorted by German police to a registration camp.
Immigrants are escorted by German police to a registration centre, after crossing the Austrian-German border in
Wegscheid near Passau, Germany, October 20, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Michael Dalder


The first was the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015. A report from the Washington Post, Tracing the path of four terrorists sent to Europe by the Islamic State, details how two of the four terrorists, successfully infiltrated into Europe and set off their suicide vests outside the Stade de France.

In November'2015, Hungarian law enforcement apprehended two British nationals, who were banned from traveling abroad for their financial terrorism, suspected to be on their way to Syria.

Then there is the disturbing report in Germany in which it was determined that migrants committed or tried to commit sixty-nine thousand crimes in the first quarter of 2016. The report stated, "There was a record influx of more than a million migrants into Germany last year and concerns are now widespread about how Europe's largest economy will manage to integrate them and ensure security."

The concern for basic law and order when crossing the border into a host country

The Hungarian refugees of 1956 requested protection first in Austria, the first safe country in which they arrived. The process of entry into Austrian society required going to temporary lodging or camps, sometimes waiting for months until each individual case could be decided.

This is stark contrast to the migrants coming into Europe today, many of whom come from and are funnelled through Syria. Many of the migrants flaunt the rules of migration from country to country, until they reach their final destination.


A close up of fencing at Hungary's southern border with Serbia.
Razor sharp fencing that Hungary typically uses at its borders, like at the Border Crossing Station at Roszke and Horgosz,
near the southern border with Serbia, to stave off the hordes of Middle Eastern migrants trying to cross into Hungary.
Photo: RafaVideoart/Hungarian army stopped Refugees in Roszke and Horgosz Hungary

The migration route that migrants have to follow to get to Hungary passes through several safe and stable countries, but they do not seek protection in those safe countries as the international treaties require. Instead, many continue on their migration, crossing into other countries along the way, such as was the case in Hungary in 2015. Here is how Kovács spotlighted this reality, "Many of those that crossed illegally into Hungary in 2015, simply refused to cooperate with the asylum procedure and instead demanded to be taken to Germany or another European host country as if it were their right."

The subject of borders is also a matter of cultural frontiers

Kovács noted that the " '56ers" crossed a political demarcation between two states, who for centuries had a close relationship, under the Habsburg Monarchy, and later the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary that lasted until World War I. Austrians and Hungarians courageously fought against a common enemy, the Ottoman Empire, that tried to aggressively expand into Europe. Austria and Hungary also share a common Judeo-Christian heritage. Kovács noted, "When Austrians received the ‘56ers, it was like they were taking in their cousins." 

This is not the case with the current group! As Kovács stated, "The culture of these migrants most definitely does not have that relationship with our Judeo-Christian culture." This is a reality that can not be ignored, to which Kovács added a touch of sarcasm, "We can ignore the elephant in the room and pretend that their assimilation in Europe is not an issue."

To further spotlight the importance of the cultural frontiers, Kovács quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from a speech in 2010:
[T]he beginning of the 60s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country…We kidded ourselves a while, we said: 'They won't stay, sometime they will be gone', but this isn't reality.
And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other... has failed, utterly failed.
Kovács pointed out that Hungary has not denied the humanitarian dimension of the current migrant crisis. This has been demonstrated with the humanitarian aid Hungary has provided and the proposals it has put forth to provide aid to the "first safe countries" on the front lines, such as Turkey and Jordan, in an effort to help them better manage the influx of so many people.

In conclusion Kovács stated, "But anyone who compares this to the 200 thousand Hungarian refugees of 1956 ignores more than a few essential differences."









Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Viktor Orbán: A True Leader of and for the People of Hungary and Hungary's Constitution The Fundamental Law of Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán giving a speech on March 15, 2016
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's speech on March 15, 2016. Photo: Vlad Tepesblog/Orban'shistoric speech puts Hungary on war footing

In late November when President-elect Donald Trump placed a call to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and invited him to Washington, it stirred up many positive thoughts I have had about Hungary and Viktor Orbán for quite some time. It seemed only fitting to share those positive thoughts in what I consider to be a timely post, one that not only acknowledges the Hungarian constitution, The Fundamental Law of Hungary, but also draws attention to Viktor Orbán: a true leader of and for the people of Hungary!

Like President-elect Donald Trump—who has great respect for Hungary—I too am a big fan of Hungary and its prime minister. I have been impressed with both for several years now; a positive impression that first began with the writing of its new constitution, The Fundamental Law of Hungary (25 April 2011), that took effect on January 1, 2012.

The constitution is a document worth reading all on its own, but especially as a primer to Prime Minister Orbán's most noteworthy speech of March 15, 2016; the annual day that Hungarians commemorate the 1848 Revolution.

Orbán has proven that the words in The Fundamental Law of Hungary have meaning and can only be taken seriously if they are backed up by action. Action is exactly what Orbán took to stave off the flow of hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern "migrants"—what is essentially an aggressive Muslim invasion of Europewho simply decided they were going to trek across Europe, on their way to Germany, and impose themselves upon each individual country along the way.


Hungarian army and police erecting fencing near Serbia to deter migrants.
Hungarian army and police setting up fencing at Roszke and Horgosz, at the Border Crossing Station, near the southern border with Serbia. Photo: RafaVideoart/Hungarian army stopped Refugees in Roszke and Horgosz Hungary

Well, not Hungary! Orbán made that abundantly clear, as he closed Hungary's southern border with Serbia in Fall'2015; mobilizing the army to erect secure fencing to prevent the hordes of so-called "refugees" from travelling through Hungary. This was all done in a very expeditious manner, proving that Orbán means what he says.

What further impresses me about Orbán's actions is that he clearly understands that one of the most fundamental responsibilities of government is to ensure the safety and protection of its citizenry, whatever the threat may be.

Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán impress me in many other ways. To expand on this would require a separate blog post. No doubt that will be forthcoming in the very near future. In interim, I invite you to discover more about Hungary and Viktor Orbán by visiting the following: the official Government of Hungary web site, www.kormany.hu/en, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's web site, www.miniszterelnok.hu, his Facebook page, and on Instagram

As to the specifics of what has primarily impressed me about Hungary and Viktor Orbán, the remainder of this post provides those details: Hungary's National Avowal, The Fundamental Law of Hungary, and Viktor Orbán's speech on March 15, 2016.

Hungary's National Avowal

Hungary's National Avowal, a two page listing of statements—that is preceded by God bless the Hungarianspreambles the constitution. At its core, it acknowledges its Christian origins attributed to King Saint Stephen, and the establishment of the Hungarian people as part of Christian Europe. It proudly recognizes the struggles and sacrifices that Hungarians of past had to make to ensure survival, freedom, and independence. It also recognizes the outstanding intellectual achievements of the Hungarian people, Hungary's participation in defending Europe in a series of struggles over the centuries, and how the Hungarian people have enriched Europe's common values with their talent and diligence.

The National Avowal commits to the preservation of the intellectual and spiritual unity of the Hungarian nation, torn apart in the "storms" (World Wars I and II, the 1956 Revolution and the Communist suppression and occupation that lasted until 1989) of the last century, and to promoting and safeguarding Hungary's heritage, unique language, and culture.


Hungarian parliament photo blended with the constitution
The Fundamental Law of Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian parliament on the twenty-fifth
anniversary of parliamentary democracy in Hungary in 2015. Photo: Viktor
Orbán Facebook

What I found particularly noteworthy was the explicit statement on the first page that recognized the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood, and the following statements that spotlight the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family, freedom, the nation, and fundamental values
We hold that human existence is based on human dignity. 
We hold that individual freedom can only be complete in cooperation with others. 
We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence, and that our fundamental cohesive values are fidelity, faith and love. (2)
It also makes clear that democracy is only possible where the, "...State serves its citizens and administers their affairs in an equitable manner, without prejudice or abuse." (3) This is such an essential point considering that preceding this, it holds that the common goal of both the citizens and the State is, "...[T]o achieve the highest possible measure of well-being, safety, order, justice and liberty." (3)

Firmly believing in the contributions of the future generations, it states, "We trust in a jointly-shaped future and the commitment of younger generations. We believe that our children and grandchildren will make Hungary great again with their talent, persistence and moral strength." (3)

The ending of the National Avowal concludes with a statement that paves the way for the remainder of the constitution, "Our Fundamental Law shall be the basis of our legal order; it shall be an alliance among Hungarians of the past, present and future. It is a living framework which expresses the nation’s will and the form in which we want to live." (3)

The Fundamental Law of Hungary

At fifty-seven pages, The Fundamental Law of Hungary, is quite the refreshing read. As with the National Avowal, it is explicitly Christian and nationalistic. It is the kind of constitution one hopes to read, in that, it includes the essential elements that ideally should form part of any constitution: the dignity of the human person; the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman; that a human person's right to life begins at conception; the right for parents to choose the upbringing to be given to their children; the importance of and the assurance to protect families; the role of Christianity in Hungary's nation building; and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The bulk of The Fundamental Law of Hungary begins at page four and is organized in the following sections: Foundation, Freedom and Responsibility, The State, Special Legal Orders, and Closing and Miscellaneous Provisions.

To illustrate how gratifying a read this constitution really is, I have selected the following excerpts:
FOUNDATION 
Article L
(1) Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage and/or the relationship between parents and children. 
(2) Hungary shall encourage the commitment to have children. 
(3) The protection of families shall be regulated by a cardinal Act.
FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY 
Article I 
(1) The inviolable and inalienable fundamental rights of MAN shall be respected. It shall be the primary obligation of the State to protect these rights. 
(2) Hungary shall recognise the fundamental individual and collective rights of man.
Article II
Human dignity shall be inviolable. Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; the life of the foetus shall be protected from the moment of conception.
Article III 
(1) No one shall be subject to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or held in servitude. Trafficking in human beings shall be prohibited.  
(2) It shall be prohibited to perform medical or scientific experiment on human beings without their informed and voluntary consent. 
(3) Practices aimed at eugenics, the use of the human body or its parts for financial gain, as well as human cloning shall be prohibited.
Article IV  
(1) Everyone shall have the right to liberty and security of the person.  
Article V
Everyone shall have the right to repel any unlawful attack against his or her person and/or property, or one that poses a direct threat to the same, as provided for by an Act.

Article VII 
(1) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to choose or change one’s religion or other belief, and the freedom of everyone to manifest, abstain from manifesting, practise or teach his or her religion or other belief through religious acts, rites or otherwise, either individually or jointly with others, either in public or in private life. 
(2) People sharing the same principles of faith may, for the practice of their religion, establish religious communities operating in the organisational form specified in a cardinal Act.
Article IX
(1) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of speech. 
(4) The right to freedom of speech may not be exercised with the aim of violating the human dignity of others. 
(5) The right to freedom of speech may not be exercised with the aim of violating the dignity of the Hungarian nation or of any national, ethnic, racial or religious community.
Article XV 
(5) By means of separate measures, Hungary shall protect families, children, women, the elderly and persons living with disabilities. 
Article XVI 
(2) Parents shall have the right to choose the upbringing to be given to their children.
If the above isn't impressive enough, the concluding two statements of the constitution will not disappoint, "We, the Members of the National Assembly elected on 25 April 2010, being aware of our responsibility before God and man and in exercise of our constitutional power, hereby adopt this to be the first unified Fundamental Law of Hungary." The final line below this reads," MAY THERE BE PEACE, FREEDOM AND ACCORD."

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's March 15, 2016 Speech in Budapest

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's speech of March 15, 2016, has to be considered one of "the" speeches of the decade.

Rich in historical and cultural content, it contains nationalistic ideals from both revolutions of 1848 and 1956, and identifies the modern-day threats to Hungary. A common thread that runs throughout the speech is the need for Hungarians to decide for freedom and the truth. 


A portrait of Sándor Petőfi, one of the key figures in Hungary's 1848 Revolution.
Sándor Petőfi: portrait by
Soma Orlay Petrich.
Photo: Alchetron
Orbán began his speech by quoting Hungary's national poet and one of the key figures in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Sándor Petőfi, "Salutations to you. Hungarian freedom, on this the day you were born!"

The hope that Petőfi had, a Hungary free from the Habsburg Empire, was echoed in Orbán's speech, "And today also, one hundred and sixty-eight years later, it is with unfettered joy, the optimism of early spring, high hopes and an elevated spirit that across the Carpathian Basin we celebrate—from Beregszász to Szabadka, from Rimaszombat to Kézdivásárhely: every Hungarian with one heart, one soul and one will."

The threat in Petőfi's time presents the same problem for Hungary today, its survival as a nation. The modern-day threat comes primarily from within Europe, specifically: the European Union (EU), the host of well funded lobbyists, and billionaires who try to impose their agenda upon each nation. What is at stake is Hungary's freedom, culture, identity, and its future.

With a Polish contingent present, Orbán explicitly identified that threat by expressing Hungary's solidarity with the nation of Poland, whose shared history has experienced the loss of freedom and nationhood. Here is what Orbán stated:
... I welcome the spirited successors of General Bem: we welcome the sons of the Polish nation. As always throughout our shared thousand-year history, now, too, we are standing by you in the battle you are fighting for your country’s freedom and independence. We are with you, and we send this message to Brussels: more respect to the Polish people, more respect to Poland!
Orbán went on to refer to Hungary's two revolutionary traditions, in which he stated that when the need arises, the Hungarian people stand up for what is right. He referred to life in Hungary today as stemming from both the 1848 and 1956 revolutions, which move and guide the nation's political, economic, and spiritual life: equality before the law, responsible government, a national bank, the sharing of burdens, respect for human dignity, and the unification of the nation.

Reinforcing the important influence of both revolutions in today's society, Orbán stated, "Today, as then, the ideals of ’48 and ’56 are the pulse driving the life force of the nation, and the intellectual and spiritual blood flow of the Hungarian people. Let us give thanks that this may be so, let us give thanks that finally the Lord of History has led us onto this path. Soli Deo gloria [Glory to God alone]!"

One can not help but be impressed with Orbán, who not only acknowledged the sacrifices of Hungarians of previous generations, but also gave thanks and glory to God.

Every revolution is a factor of those who initiate it and carry it to its completion. For Hungarians of the past, these were decent folk, respectable and hard working citizens, regular people from all walks of life: military officers, lawyers, writers, doctors, engineers, honest tradespeople, farmers and workers with a sense of duty.


A black and white photo of crowds cheering Hungarian troops during the 1956 Revolution.
Crowds in Budapest cheering Hungarian troops in 1956. Photo: FORTEPAN/Pesti Srác2

Orbán asked Hungarians to ponder on Sándor Petőfi's question, "So what are you going to do?" It was a question Petőfi asked, three weeks before his death, in his last letter to János Arany. Orbán added to this, "How will you make use of your inheritance?"

Further acknowledging Hungary's existence, inheritance, and identity, Orbán stated, "...[T]he Hungarian people still exist, Buda still stands, we are who we were, and we shall be who we are."

All this is threatened by the instability of Europe! From this current threat, Orbán asked the Hungarian people, "Shall we live in slavery or in freedom?" It is a question that must be asked simply due to the fact that the destiny of Hungary is intertwined with that of Europe's, and Hungarians can not be free if Europe is not free. Orbán described the current state of Europe as, "...[F]ragile, weak and sickly as a flower being eaten away by a hidden worm. Today, one hundred and sixty-eight years after the great freedom fights of its peoples, Europe – our common home – is not free."

As to why Europe is not free, Orbán identified the fundamental problem: freedom begins with speaking the truth. He elaborated on this, in what I consider to be one of the key segments of his speech. Here is what Orbán stated:
Europe is not free, because freedom begins with speaking the truth. In Europe today it is forbidden to speak the truth. A muzzle is a muzzle – even if it is made of silk. It is forbidden to say that today we are not witnessing the arrival of refugees, but a Europe being threatened by mass migration. It is forbidden to say that tens of millions are ready to set out in our direction. It is forbidden to say that immigration brings crime and terrorism to our countries. It is forbidden to say that the masses of people coming from different civilisations pose a threat to our way of life, our culture, our customs, and our Christian traditions. It is forbidden to say that, instead of integrating, those who arrived here earlier have built a world of their own, with their own laws and ideals, which is forcing apart the thousand-year-old structure of Europe. It is forbidden to say that this is not accidental and not a chain of unintentional consequences, but a planned, orchestrated campaign, a mass of people directed towards us. It is forbidden to say that in Brussels they are constructing schemes to transport foreigners here as quickly as possible and to settle them here among us. It is forbidden to say that the purpose of settling these people here is to redraw the religious and cultural map of Europe and to reconfigure its ethnic foundations, thereby eliminating nation states, which are the last obstacle to the international movement. It is forbidden to say that Brussels is stealthily devouring ever more slices of our national sovereignty, and that in Brussels today many are working on a plan for a United States of Europe, for which no one has ever given authorisation.
If all this sounds like an alarm bell, that is exactly what Orbán was sounding off, and rightly so. Other countries in Europe are listening and responding with their own efforts to regain their autonomy, protect their identity, and restore their cultural and heritage. 

Orbán talked about this, referring to it as an "awakening," in which Europe is realizing each day, more and more, that what is at stake is the future of Europe: prosperity, comfort, jobs, security, and a peaceful order.


Hungary's official stamp commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution
The official Hungarian stamp commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight.
The identified heroes visible on the frame image of the stamp block are: Erika Kornélia Szeles (1941-1956, center),
Mária Wittner (1937-), patron of the Memorial Year, Katalin Havrila Béláné Sticker (1932-1959), László Dózsa (1942-),
actor, Dénes Dóczi (1932-1958) and József Vass (1937-?). 
Photo: Hungarian Post Office, via Wikimedia Commons 

Europe is a community of Christian nations, that are free and independent, but that status is being challenged by the modern-day threat, that is different from threats of the past—which may not be so obvious or understood compared to the open oppression and attacks of totalitarian regimes of the past—a comparison which Orbán made to spotlight the dangers of the modern-day threat:
This danger is not now threatening us as wars and natural disasters do, which take the ground from under our feet in an instant. Mass migration is like a slow and steady current of water which washes away the shore. It appears in the guise of humanitarian action, but its true nature is the occupation of territory; and their gain in territory is our loss of territory. 
Orbán went to to repel the false accusations made against Hungary by so-called "human rights warriors," that Hungarians are xenophobic and hostile. Quite the opposite is true which Hungary's history proves; it is a nation of inclusion and intertwining cultures:
Those who have sought to come here as new family members, as allies or as displaced persons fearing for their lives have been let in to make a new home for themselves. But those who have come here with the intention of changing our country and shaping our nation in their own image, those who have come with violence and against our will, have always been met with resistance.
What first appeared to be a relatively small number of "migrants," quickly grew into hundreds of thousands. Orbán asserted that the main danger to Europe comes from within, Brussels' itself, with its "fanatics of internationalism." He boldly stated that Brussels must not be allowed to place itself above the law:
We cannot allow Brussels to place itself above the law. We shall not allow it to force upon us the bitter fruit of its cosmopolitan immigration policy. We shall not import to Hungary crime, terrorism, homophobia and synagogue-burning anti-Semitism. There shall be no urban districts beyond the reach of the law, there shall be no mass disorder or immigrant riots here, and there shall be no gangs hunting down our women and daughters. We shall not allow others to tell us whom we can let into our home and country, whom we will live alongside, and whom we will share our country with.
Orbán had no illusions as to the negative implications and social unrest that would result from Brussels' "cosmopolitan immigration policy." He stated that Hungary would be forced to take in the "migrants," and serve them, which would eventually result in Hungarians confronting a situation of forced removal from their own land.

Orbán clearly has the foresight, fortitude, and the courage to see to it that, such a scenario does not come to pass. He completely rejected the forced resettlement scheme and he made it clear that Hungary will not tolerate neither blackmail, nor threats.

Calling upon all European nations, Orbán explicitly stated that, "The time has come to ring the warning bell. The time has come for opposition and resistance. The time has come to gather allies to us. The time has come to raise the flag of proud nations. The time has come to prevent the destruction of Europe, and to save the future of Europe."

Orbán's alarm bell is a call for unity in Europe. The peoples of Europe can not be free individually if they are not free together.

In the last part of his speech, Orbán referred once more to Hungary's history as an encouragement to the people of Hungary to resist the modern-day threat. During the Habsburg Empire, the people of Hungary were not resigned to accept foreign control, and the same holds true during the Russian occupation after World War II. As for today's modern-day threat, Orbán stated the following, "Today it is written in the book of fate that hidden, faceless world powers will eliminate everything that is unique, autonomous, age-old and national. They will blend cultures, religions and populations, until our many-faceted and proud Europe will finally become bloodless and docile."

The resistance required against this scheme for Europe is especially understood by the peoples of both Hungary and Poland, who Orbán characterized as people who know how to resist, defeat, rewrite and transform the fate intended for Europe today.

It comes down to a choice that Hungarians and the rest of Europe must make, answering in the process the question that Orbán posed, "Shall we live in slavery or in freedom?" His encouragement to his fellow Hungarians, "That is the question—give your answer! Go for it Hungary, go for it Hungarians!"

God bless Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the nation of Hungary and Hungarians all over the world.







Thursday, November 24, 2016

Michael O'Brien's Toronto Art Exhibit and Talk: The Vocation of a Christian Artist

A photo of Michael O'Brien during his talk at the chapel at Regis College.
Michael O'Brien giving his talk in the chapel at Regis College

Recently I had the privilege of meeting Canadian Catholic artist and author, Michael O'Brien, at his art exhibit and talk at Regis College, the Jesuit School of Theology at the University of Toronto.

It was a much anticipated event on my part as I am not only familiar with his artwork, but even more so with his writings on culture and fantasy.

Although I have corresponded with O'Brien over the years, part of which included expressing my gratitude for his writings, it was only up until last week that I was able to extend my gratitude in person: what a gratifying feeling that was.

Born in 1948, O'Brien is the author of twenty-eight books, several of which have been published in fourteen languages, and widely reviewed in both North America and Europe. His articles on faith and culture have appeared in several international journals such as: Communio, Catholic World Report, Catholic Dossier, Inside the Vatican, The Chesterton Review, and Our Sunday Visitor. He was also the editor of Nazareth Journal, a Catholic family magazine.

O'Brien has given hundreds of talks at universities and churches throughout the world. His interviews and articles have been translated for foreign language journals: Croatian, French, Spanish, Italian, and Polish.

As a professional artist since 1970, O'Brien has had more than forty exhibits across North America. Exclusively painting religious imagery since 1976, O'Brien's talents have not gone unnoticed. Over the years he has been commissioned to produce many works: the painting of the martrydom of Saint Thomas Becket by the Thomas Becket Fund, the American Catholic law firm in Washington, D.C. that fights for religious liberty; a series of four paintings for the novitiate chapel for the Companions of the Cross, a Catholic religious Order in Canada; and a host of other works for churches, monasteries, universities, communities and private collectors in Canada, the U.S.A., England, Germany, Italy, Australia, and Africa.

O'Brien is the recipient of many awards: the Canadian Christian Writing Award, from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada: First Place, for Eclipse of the Sun, awarded 1999; the Andrija Buvina Award from the Church in Croatia, for accomplishments in Faith and Culture, awarded 2005; The Servant of the Word Award, from the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, awarded 2006; The Archbishop Adam Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life, from the Catholic Civil Rights League, Canada, awarded 2012; Logos Book Award, “Best 2012 Book—Fiction” for The Father’s Tale, from the Logos Bookstore Association, U.S.A., awarded 2013; and the Catholic Culture Award, from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, awarded 2014.

Michael also teaches art history at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a Catholic college in Barry's Bay, Ontario. He currently resides near Combermere, Ontario where he and his wife Sheila have six children and ten grandchildren.

My initial discovery of Michael O'Brien from his writings on culture and fantasy

I first came to know of Michael O'Brien through his writings on the Harry Potter occult controversy. Back in January'2002 a Franciscan friar handed me a print-out of an article from SpiritDaily.com of Father Gabriele Amorth's warning on the dangers of Harry Potter. I took the warning seriously and endeavoured, together with the friar, to research it further. It wasn't long before I arrived at LifeSiteNew's, Harry Potter Problem: Whirlwind of Controversy page where I bookmarked and printed out several articles, including those from Michael O'Brien.

What resulted from that research—which eventually led me to the reading of O'Brien's book, Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culturewas an awareness campaign disseminating information on the dangers of Harry Potter, that a few years later became a blog post entitled, The Dangers of Harry Potter: The Occult Controversy.

To get a sense of the depth of O'Brien's contribution to Christian culture, consider visiting his web site, studiObrien.com, and in particular the two sidebar links, Writings on Fantasy, and Writings on Culture. Both have an impressive list of articles that are sure to satisfy any reader in search of the truth, knowledge, and understanding.

StudiObrien.com is the perfect, one-stop location to be brought up to speed for those who were never aware of the many controversial cultural issues that had infiltrated into Canadian mainstream society. Some prime examples that you may want to consider are: Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture, the Twilight vampire series, The Golden Compass, and Pan's Labyrinth.

As to some of O'Brien's fairly recent writings on culture, I found his article, Euthanasia: from war crime to act of compassion, to be most intriguing. Those who have an appreciation for history will find it to be a thought provoking read that truly speaks of that most valuable lesson to be learned from history, quoted perfectly in Winston Churchill's 1948 speech to the House of Commons, in which he paraphrased George Santayana (The Life of Reason, 1905), "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

His most recent article posted on his web site, Reflections on the Church, is a friendly reminder to "keep the faith" regardless of the current condition of the Church, particularly in North America and Western Europe. The last sentence of the article says it all, "Take heart. Trust in the Lord, especially when there seems to be little or no grounds for trust.

I could not do justice to O'Brien's contributions to Christian culture without mentioning his newsletters. Many times his newsletters were exactly what I needed: a faith strengthening read of a Catholic witness whose love for Jesus permeated every aspect of his personal and professional life.

Most worthy of note is O'Brien's second instalment, dated September 25, 2003. It is a treasure trove for all Catholic artists, writers, and those involved in other creative endeavours. What I found particularly impressive and encouraging was his uncompromising fidelity to Jesus in his work, in a Canadian landscape that became increasingly secular over time, shunning Christianity in art and writings in the process. Perhaps it appropriate that I include a few excerpts:
A few thoughts on the new evangelization, and what it asks of us:
We live in a society that is almost completely dominated by death. The Holy Father [Saint Pope John Paul II] refers to modern western civilization as a "culture of death." He means by this more than abortion or the growing trend to euthanasia. Most families in the developed nations, including most Catholic families, feel pressured to eliminate children from their lives, one way or another. At the root of the culture of death is fear. St. Francis of Assisi called fear and discouragement a 'demon.'
'Perfect love casts out fear,' Jesus says. How do we grow in love? How do we cast out fear?
 ...To create always costs something in terms of human investment, labor, and sacrifice. To create a human life and to nurture it to maturity costs everything we have to give. So too, genuine culture costs. Sometimes it costs everything we have to give. And often the price entails our perseverance in the creation of words of Truth and Love in the face of all opposition and apparent failure.
...How, then, to be fruitful in a time such as ours? 
I have no quick strategies to offer you. 'Success' or 'failure' is entirely God's affair. Your and my responsibility is faithfulness to our 'talents' regardless of the cost. My secret is this: Abandon yourself with full confidence to Jesus, live the totality of the Catholic faith without compromise, and he will do the rest. Pray, work hard, pray, and don't give up...
...If creators of Christian culture hope to produce work that will bear good fruit, we must draw our life from the true source—our living Savior. He is real. He is present. But all to often we reduce him to an abstraction, giving him intellectual assent, but not our hearts.
This dichotomy, so endemic to the modern age, has negative consequences. The solution is simple. I repeat: Abandon yourself with full confidence to Jesus, live the totality of the Catholic faith without compromise, and he will do the rest.
Over the years I have printed out many of his newsletters and articles, and placed them into a folder that is over one inch thick and growing. Some of what was included in the aforementioned newsletter was reiterated during O'Brien's talk. 

The vocation of a Christian artist

Travelling from suburbia, I made sure to leave well in advance of the 7:00pm talk. Taking one of my trusted routes proved to be a very wise decision as I arrived at approximately 5:30pm, affording me the opportunity to pray in a quiet atmosphere at Saint Basil's Cathedral, just one block north of Regis College.

A photo of the interior of St. Basil's Cathedral in Toronto
St. Basil's Cathedral, Toronto
Built in 1856, St. Basil’s Cathedral is the founding church of the Congregation of St. Basil in Toronto. It is an enormous and beautiful structure on a vast property that serves a large congregation and certainly accommodates many visitors.

I have attended Mass and received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) at this cathedral many times; spending time there again was familiar territory. That same evening, before O'Brien's talk, I recited two sets of the Rosary mysteries (Sorrowful and Glorious) with the special intentions that God and Our Lady would protect Michael O'Brien, all those attending the event, and grant an abundance of graces and blessings for a successful night.

With about a half an hour to spare, I made my way to Regis College and viewed O'Brien's art exhibit; a small collection of selected paintings that he commented on during the latter part of his talk.

The talk, whose theme was The Vocation of an Artist, began promptly at 7:00pm and surprisingly, O'Brien apologized for having to abandon his planned talk due to his flu, which was barely detectable except for a handful of coughs. It did not seem to deter him in the least, as he was quite energetic, enthusiastic, and attentive to the task at hand. Perhaps it was God's way of telling him that He wanted O'Brien to speak from the heart, which is exactly what he said he would do, adding, "All I can give you is what I really am, what Sheila [his wife] and I, really are."

Only as the talk progressed did I come to understand God's wisdom in directing Michael to speak from the heart. Michael informed the audience that Sheila was in the back room praying for him which, as he further explained, is what she always does during his talks, no matter where his talks take him throughout the world. That fact alone spotlighted how important Sheila's role has been in Michael's career; a role whose significance became crystal clear to the audience later in the talk.

This complimented the comment made by the young priest, assigned to introduce O'Brien that night, who expressed something to the effect that, he no longer thought of the artwork and writings as coming from just Michael O'Brien, but rather from both Michael and Sheila O'Brien.

John Bentley Mays

The talk was given in honour of the late John Bentley Mays, an award-winning Toronto writer on contemporary architecture and visual art, and the author of several books, who O'Brien characterized as a probing and honest intellect, untainted by any ideological agenda; a man searching in the "deep waters," yearning to find something, to find some meaning hidden in art.

A portrait of John Bentley Mays by Gertrude Kearns.
A portrait of John Bentley Mays by Gertrude
Kearns. 
From United States of Being 2005:
The John Bentley Mays Portraits.
Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Mays's career path led him to emigrate to Canada, where he eventually became an art critic in Toronto for four decades; and is considered to be one of Canada’s great observers, interpreters and explainers of art and architecture. Mays had passed away earlier this year as a result of a fatal heart attack on September 16.

O'Brien read and referred to Mays's book, Power in the Blood: Land, Memory and a Southern Family, which he described as the book that truly revealed who he was.

O'Brien went on to state that what the reader encounters in Mays's reminiscence is a, "Thoroughly modern man and a very great intellect, very cultured, urban, going back to his roots as a Southerner, seeking to know who he really was." 

He elaborated further by stating that this "Moving book is a long meditation of a person in late-middle age going back to where he came from, with new eyes, to see it for the first time."

Mays traced his family tree going back many generations to the early colonial days in Virginia; the author's eye is a reflection of his looking deeper into his personal history, in an attempt to find himself, to know a little better who he really is.

Mays did this through the eyes of an artist, who O'Brien went on to further describe:
A highly developed intellect, a highly articulate man, a master of words. He was a gifted writer who wrote not as an exercise in self obsession. As his reflections move through time and perception, what emerges is a poetic sense of the heart of the man's view of the world. His poetic sense is not easily come by, primarily it is something that is instinctive and very intimately connected to the sense of wonder; a wonder for the limitless phenomena of reality.
The Christian artist's responsibility to respect the sense of wonder

Segueing into a deeper reflection of wonder, O'Brien quoted Plato who said, "Philosophy is born of wonder," to which he added, " So too is art, so too is love." 

He went on to explain that when one falls in love with another, there is a sense of awe of the other being, a sense of silence emerges; a silence, a holy silence of attention before the mystery of the being of another. That other being could be the face of child or a landscape that evokes thoughts of the transcendent reality or the truth of the gospel; it can be practically anything that is true, beautiful, and good.

A painting of Jesus by Michael O'Brien entitled Ecce Homo
 Michael O'Brien's Ecce Homo
For the artist there is an immense responsibility, especially a Christian artist, to respect his sense of wonder, not only in his own creative processes, but in those who will gaze upon his work, who listen to his music or read his writings. He must respect the dignity not only of his subject matter, and himself as an artist, but also the dignity of the viewer.

O'Brien went on to point out that today's electronic culture does not lead us to wonder, but rather to an experience of thrills, that becomes addictive requiring increased dosages to achieve the same "high"; a consolation for living at an inhuman pace that is killing us. 

He challenged the audience to look at the symptoms, the fruits of contemporary society: are our children our greatest treasure; how often do we experience reverence; what is the condition of our cultural forms; does it lead us to wonder or does it keep "packin on more thrills."

Man is capable of wonder and growing in love. O'Brien explained that in a culture, born of love, seeking truth, and reverencing being, it is only art that flows from those springs in human nature, which transcends all races, time, and history, that will awaken the souls of those that find nourishment in it. 

O'Brien asks where shall such art be born? For a Christian or anyone living in the right order of natural law—whether or not he knows our Lord Jesus—seeking the truth, yearning for the good and beautiful, a kind of natural grace occurs. For the Christian artist, a sanctifying grace is possible. A grace to see farther and deeper and to come to a condition of reverence and to see reflected in nature, especially human nature, that what is glorious and beautiful because it is a reflection of He who is truth and beautiful, He who made us in His own image and likeness. 

Michael's conversion, meeting his wife, and the clarity of his vocation

At about the mid-way point of the talk, O'Brien took us back to the moment when his conversion became more profound, and how creative works begin to spring forth in his life, that eventually led him to the meeting of his wife; a meeting of great importance for him personally and professionally.

It was shortly after his conversion that O'Brien decided that he would venture out into the Gatineau hills (just north of Ottawa), to write a few paragraphs about nature. He came across a scene, a sapling about three feet tall growing from a heap of broken stones. Life had sprung up from where one would least expect it.

It was a scene whose significance was about to be revealed to him. As he set out to write about nature—which he never ended up doing—Michael's profound conversion was taking place. He described it as a time when, "The more he looked, the more amazing things appeared around me...my eyes were beginning to see deeper and farther than they had before..." O'Brien shared that little did he know that the sapling growing out of those rocks was to be a living metaphor of his own life; the beginning of a new life from what had previously been sterile ground.

It was at this point, in the early days of his vocation, that O'Brien began to draw; a time in which he experienced an inpouring of grace that illuminated his soul that resulted in the production of many drawings. Within a year, through divine providence, he had his first art exhibit in Ottawa in 1971. It proved to be quite a successful exhibit with three-quarters of the drawings sold.

The proceeds from that exhibit afforded him the opportunity to travel to British Columbia, where he came to a village that a friend was working at. It was at this village that he met his wife, which he married a few years later. He had abandoned all thoughts of becoming an artist, and set out to take on the responsibilities of married life.

A few months into the marriage, when Michael and Sheila were expecting their first child, Sheila had approached Michael and candidly stated, "Michael, you are an artist." As I watched and listened to Michael sharing this, I could not help but think that God was calling him back to his vocation through Sheila's insistence and certitude. 

This was confirmed a minute or two later. Michael shared that he sort of "shrugged off" the title of being an artist, and was set on meeting the responsibilities of a having a family. Sheila countered by stating, "God has given you a gift. God does not give gifts to leave them abandoned." That day was the return of Michael to his vocation as an artist.

Since that day in 1975, to present, O'Brien stressed the importance of his wife's unfailing support through some very long hard years. He went on to further state, "To be a Christian artist in these times is not an easy task."

A place we all could live

A painting by Michael O'Brien depicting a small Canadian town in winter.
Michael O'Brien's painting: A Place We All could Live

During the second half of the talk, O'Brien displayed selected paintings in a slide show, and explained the meaning and inspiration behind each one.

The above painting, one of two that depicts a typical small Canadian town in winter, drew my attention and has since, become of one my favourite paintings. 

As to why Michael painted it, he explained that one day Sheila remarked how nice it would be to live in a small town where the church was the spiritual and physical center of the town, and the children were everyones' joy and treasure. In response to this, he set out to paint such a scene for his wife. 

Personally, I totally agree with Michael and Sheila, it would be great to live in such is a place. Concluding his comments on this painting, O'Brien asked the audience, "Does such a place still exist?" 

The gift to create and to know it is a gift from above

A photo portrait of Michael O'Brien.
Michael O'Brien
Among the many things O'Brien shared with the audience was how blessed he has been considering that he was the individual least likely to succeed in his vocation. He was also blessed to see his radical poverty and then to be open, through grace, to receive many gifts. Among them was the gift to create and to know it was given from above and not his possession to do with as he willed.

Ever since my discovery of Michael O'Brien many years ago, I have always understood, and even more so from my attendance at the art exhibit and talk, that he is a deeply spiritual man; a man who has taken to heart Fra Angelico's advice to artists, "To paint the things of Christ, one must live with Christ."

What I discovered at his talk, that particularly impressed me, was O'Brien's pursuit to understand the meaning of his vocation. It wasn't just about developing the artistic skills, deep within was a desire to understand the meaning of it all. In addition to reading about other artists, one source of information that helped him to acquire the understanding, was Saint Pope John Paul II's Letter to Artists, in which he read the following paragraph:
Human beings, in a certain sense, are unknown to themselves. Jesus Christ not only reveals God, but “fully reveals man to man”. In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, “awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:19), is redeemed. The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art. (14)
O'Brien talked a great deal about the vocation of an artist through the narrative of his life and that of other artists, who like him, have been faithful to their talents regardless of the cost.

Reflecting back on the talk, I can not help but think of how he has lived the recommendations from the second instalment of his newsletters: he has been faithful to his God given talents, and abandoned himself to Jesus with full confidence; he has lived the totality of the Catholic faith without compromise; and prayed, worked hard, and never gave up.

What Michael O'Brien has wonderfully and passionately communicated regarding his vocation as an artist and author, is that it involves prayer, hard work, faith, and perseverance. It certainly was a very pleasant feeling to know that his career has been quite successful, one that has included the opportunity to give talks throughout Canada and the world. Where would we be without them?

It was a privilege to be in attendance at his art exhibit and talk, and an honour to have finally met Michael O'Brien; a man who I greatly admire and who earned my respect many years ago.

Thank God for Michael and Sheila O'Brien, for their past and continued contributions to the restoration of Christian culture.