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Quo Vadis, Europe? Toward the Christian Roots of the United Europe

Victor Orban

Former Hungarian Prime Minister, leader of FIDESZ

In 1949, after the end of the Second World War and the defeat of national-socialism, the new era in Germany was started by a new German Constitution. Its first sentence states: "Wholly conscious of its responsibility before God and Man (...) the German people now decides the basic Law of the German Federal Republic."

As this proves, the first message that was underlined in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of the "brown dictatorship" was the German's turning towards God. But we know that no similar change in the Constitution, no such reference to a new worldview, was made in Hungary, after the defeat of the "red dictatorship."

This is what I had in mind when I thought of addressing the issue of Christianity and Europe. We, Hungarians-I should only speak for Hungarians-left out the big possibility of spiritual renewal, after the end of the communist dictatorship. And ever since, we seem to be bogged down in a constant re-occurrence of the political instruments of the communist past. There still is a fight for our Christian values. Christian politicians have no easy way in our part of the world even thirteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are immediately called "clerical", and "nationalist", and "populist", and more often than not, "anti-Semite." This is not unknown in the Western part of our continent either, but using these terms for meaning "Christian" is a traditional, and it seems, a favorite, political tool of the left in Central East Europe. By using such terms in the political discourse, the message seems to be that the aim of the political struggle is the total destruction of the opposing side, and to gain the majority.

These thoughts bring us to the major question Christian politicians have to answer: What is of importance: Truth or Majority. I use these terms with capital letters, that is, with a special emphasis on both. Please allow me to explain why.

Truth is of great significance to us. Truth is what Christians are asked to follow. Christians know only too well that they are not the embodiment of Truth. That there was one earthly force to embody Truth, was the lie of bolshevism, and Truth was Them. But Christians also know that there are no "several truths"-this latter is the lie of the relativists. Christians know that there IS Truth, there is ONE Truth, and that they are called to follow this one Truth in their lives. This Truth is, and shall be, the measure of their lives. Christians also know that Truth is beyond question, whether it is supported by the majority, or not.

Yet "Majority" is not a dirty word. Democratic politics is about gaining a majority behind what you stand for. It is something you have to have, if you believe your responsibility is to work for the betterment of people's lives. In politics, without majority, all your efforts are in vain at best. Majority can be mistakenly seen as the ultimate target of politics, but it is rather the necessary and unavoidable instrument in a politician's work.

But can you have both, Truth AND Majority, or if not, and you have to chose, which should be your choice, it is an important question with some rather serious consequences. Thus the issue of our discussion today is one of the most difficult, at the same time, most straightforward one. It is a question which we, Christian politicians, all asked from ourselves at the beginning of our political lives, and we knew that the ultimate judgement about our actions, our lives, shall be made on the basis of the answer we gave to this short question. It might seem simple: Truth is what matters, whether it is supported by a majority or not. Politics without Truth is not our world. But when it came to the personal answer we returned to this question of what matters, Majority or Truth, we also knew that we cannot separate the personal answer from the overall political answer.

It first may seem like a deeply personal question, but at the same time, it is the very essence of any Christian-democratic political presence.

The way we said to ourselves that Truth matters, the way we say in our political parties that Truth is of more importance. Majority, however solidly is it the basics of democracy, for us is not enough in itself.

And yes, Times may come when Truth does not enjoy the support of the majority. Take the example of Hungary: At the most recent census, 51% of the population declared themselves "believers," which means that the number of sympathizers with Christian values is above half the population. That seems like a clear indication that there is a public consensus concerning the values that have to appear in the society-and thus, in politics. Yet, as the most recent elections show, the support for non-Christian Democratic parties combined together outweighed the support for Christianity-based political forces. What explains for this discrepancy is NOT the topic of my introduction today. It may be enough to say that the 45 year-long massive socialist-materialistic world view made a large part of our populations easily susceptible for the consumer-society's individualistic, consumption-and immediate-satisfaction oriented, in one word, non-Christian, world view.

My issue is what conclusion Christian politicians should draw from the fact that we may at times lose the Majority while promoting Truth.

Should we then say that we have to hide our values and look for other messages to get the majority support for parties? No. For us, Politics with Majority but without Truth is not worth getting involved in.

So far it might even seem like a simple moral question, relatively evident to answer for most Christian politicians. But we are compelled to see the issue from the other perspective: is Truth enough in politics, without a Majority? Shall we content with our values, beliefs, which are not supported by the Majority of our countries?

No, we have to be clear on this point as much as we are clear on the previous one. It is our responsibility as Christian politicians to work as much as to get the necessary Majority in support of the Truth. In this work, quantity and quality matters at the same time. We cannot spare ourselves-while working just the way St. Peter said: "Follow the Truth in Love."

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The title of our conference today however urges me to tackle yet another issue: Quo Vadis, Europe. Indeed, this is the major concrete question we face as we discuss the question of European integration of our countries.

There is a problem specific to OUR voters, and I am speaking now strictly about OUR voters, that is, voters of Christian democratic belief. It is that the majority of the news they have been getting about Europe over the last decade is filled with images of practically extreme liberalism in Europe: like the wedding rights of homosexual couples, the spread and freer and freer use of drugs, open and public sexual acts. And they feel like this is not THEIR Europe.

The Europe of our voters is that of democracy, of the cradle of Christianity, of societies where respect for the individual as well as for the families are the rules of the day.

Let me underline this: While these images do reflect the popular liberal trends in Europe, they do NOT reflect the Majority belief of Europe. The beliefs, the values, the Truth of the Majority of Europe are reflected in the majority of the European parliament: the majority of the Christian democratic peoples' parties.

It seems like a discrepancy between image and reality, which it may be. But, more importantly, it tells us that it IS NOT a political suicide to follow our Truth in politics, that our Truth in politics IS able to attract the Majority necessary in a democracy to find ways of exercising influence over the life of the society.

But please allow me to take this opportunity of us being together here, to go one level further, in my analysis of the situation-and, more importantly, of the way we should go from here in the major issues under discussion in our days, shortly, in "bullet points," so to say.

(1) The structure of Europe. In other words, whether a highly centralized decision-making in Europe can or should be the way for the continent to develop, or whether the continent should remain what it has been for the centuries: a continent of many colors, that is, many nations, working together. We, Central Europeans, who have lived under a highly centralized rule enforced upon us, are not too keen to feel this pressure, now coming from Brussels. In our experience, every unity, if it reaches a large-enough scale and is highly centralized, tends to carry more risks and dangers than advantages. This experience influences our attitude towards questions such as the introduction of a European passport, or the Constitution. This brings me to my second bullet point.

(2) The question of the European Constitution. It was not evident at all that even a united Europe should have an own, independent, constitution. There are many arguments against it. But should there in the end BE a European Constitution, it does have to reflect the values of the continent: Christianity in the first place. The Constitution has to contain a clear reference to a democratic and Christian-rooted Europe, to Providence, to the important and historic role the Churches have played in the shaping of our continent throughout the centuries. We made our own version that contains a reference of this sort, but what also comes to my mind is the proposal of the Pope concerning the Constitution, that the Polish Constitution's thought should be included: "all those people who find the source of good, truth and beauty, in God, as well as those who, although from a different source, profess the same values."

There is a consensus in some questions though. We all agree, that our Europe shall and should always remain democratic. Which means, that the notion of Majority shall never again be a dirty word on our continent.

But we, Christian democratic political forces, need to be clear on another point as well. The same way there has to remain another consensus: that our continent has to continue to be a Europe based on Christian values.

Shall Europe's Christian democratic parties be strong enough to present the beliefs so important for the lives of their nations on the European level as well? Shall we be strong enough to make sure that the various institutional frameworks and basic documents of the united Europe reflect the values that our societies have been based on for centuries? The future of our children depends on the question whether we shall be able to stick to these in all the forms of European political expression, or whether our political opponents shall successfully be able to present Christianity as a backward, alien world, nationalistic, clerical, and opposing modernity's achievements.

We, Hungarians and Central Europeans can offer our experience from communism: our resistance then was strong enough to oppose and ultimately win over the communist pressure. The institution that was able to preserve its independence also formally, not just informally, which was able to provide ideological shelter to a large part of the population, in the fact of the oppression of the communist ideology, were our Churches. Their strength, their credibility, their authority were our strength and give us credibility today. Back then, the communist world presented itself as an absolute world. Now, the world of consumerism present itself as wholly relativistic.

If Christianity was strong enough against the communist dictatorship, it shall be strong enough when facing the challenges, charms, and lies, of consumerism, of extreme liberty and relativism as well. Let's be trustful.

Thank you for your attention.

March 16 2003, Gniezno, Poland,

Conference "Quo Vadis, Europe"


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