Thousands of refugees are pouring INTO Hungary now. And yet, it wasn't so long ago thousands of refugees were pouring OUT of the country. In 1956, after a failed revolution against the Soviet Union, some 200,000 Hungarians fled Hungary (my parents, 2 uncles and an aunt included) and fortunately, for them, Austria kept its borders open. But that is not the case today. At least not any more. The Hungarians have built a 12 foot barbed wire fence along the border of Serbia to keep the refugees from coming across. Now the poor souls are looking for other ways of getting to the countries who will accept them. Unfortunately, it will be a much longer route.
I was anxious to hear what the Hungarians were thinking about the refugee crisis - especially my parents since they were refugees in Austria after escaping from Hungary in 1956 aiming to better their lives as well as their unborn child (mom was pregnant with my older sister when they left).
Szombathely is a beautiful, old city with a population of about 80,000. In this city, people have never met any refugees. It is homogeneous (except for the tourists); everybody speaks the same language, eats the same food and looks the same—white. That's a generalization, but the majority of the ones I have met are this way. I'm not sure how much they would welcome people from the Middle East; especially since their prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has had one message for months: that the people arriving from the Middle East are not refugees, but illegal immigrants seeking European prosperity. The refugees...they do not even want to stay in Hungary but this is lost on people believing everything they hear and see on the news which is dominated by Orbán’s propaganda. A translation from an article from The Guardian, has Orbán saying "Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims,” he said. “This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity...Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.” Well, being Christian means that you follow the teachings of Christ. Correct? What happened to "Love one another?" I'm just askin'!
The people in Szombathely may never have met a refugee (and may never in the future either), but they watch TV, read the news and listen to what the government says about the people arriving in their country. The news, which is always on in my parents' house is the local and regional TV station and CNN World. They don't read alternative news sources and the TV doesn't offer other alternative media either. And like many of their friends and relatives in the area, they are concerned about the situation. One cousin believes there will be war because of the refugee situation and the closing of the borders (she sympathizes greatly with them).
There are those who talk about how the "migrants" are dangerous. Not unlike some people out in the States who believe the propaganda spewed out from CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS.
Then there is one aunt who told me that she can't watch much of the news for her heart breaks for the children. It cannot bear it.
As I wrote this, my parents were watching as Hungarian police in riot gear fired teargas and water cannon over the border with Serbia today. This, after frustrated crowds gathered there in the thousands when Hungary closed it's border on Tuesday. They tried to burst through a gate that connects the two countries. Hungary’s actions were met with fury by the Serbian government, which said its northern neighbors had no right to fire into Serbian territory. If refugees attempt to cross the fence, new rule, they will be arrested. So, there you have it.
The whole world is witness to these events. Reporters and film crews are in Hungary. Hungarians, as a people, are no worse than anyone else – thousands of volunteers have been helping the refugees for weeks – but they don’t act for the government. While driving down the road, my mother and I watched as police pulled box trucks over to check to see that no refugees were being transported in the back by smugglers. They don't want another incident like the one that happened a couple of weeks ago when several refugees died in the back of a truck on the way to Austria. I believe there are police who are truly trying to protect them. But, despite their good work and that of civilians who are helping, thanks to the actions of the government, Hungary will have a bad name...perhaps. We shall see how it sorts out.
I am not sure what to think of this entire situation. Of course, as is my nature, I sympathize with the refugees wanting a better life. At the same time, when does a government stop accepting refugees? How much should they help? And what is the best way to help? The EU should be working these problems out so that no one country is responsible for all those fleeing to safety. I may not like Orbán, but I understand the difficulty of the situation of the country he runs.
The answer is simple, really. The conflicts in the Middle East must be resolved. Can that happen while the U.S. (and Russia, and Germany, and France) continue selling arms to the wrong people in the region? Saudi Arabia just secured a massive new infusion of missiles and so-called smart bombs from the U.S., in addition to the regular arsenal that our country supplies to the middle eastern country. “There are more arms in the Middle East region than bread,” Annette Groth of the German Parliament reflected. “I remember a discussion with an ambassador from this region about three years ago, and he looked at us other parliamentarians, as well, and he said, ‘It is time that the West collects the weapons you have brought us.’ Very, very true, and very simple.”
My parents and I leave for Romania in a few hours. What we will encounter on our way out or back is unknown. But, if I can, my camera will be ready as will my mind and heart.