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Minorités religieuses

Hungarian law does not employ the term ‘religious minorities’. Clearly, discrimination on the basis of religion is prohibited by the Constitution. On the other hand, the social status of a religious community cannot be the basis of positive discrimination (affirmative action) : the neutrality of the state implies that there is no obligation to promote small religious communities to compensate for their lack of members.
The preamble of the Basic Law (‘national avowal’ of the Constitution) contains an acknowledgement of the role of Christianity in upholding the nation. This is, on the one hand, the acknowledgement of a historical fact. On the other hand, the role of Christianity in forming the nation is endorsed, not the religious belief. The preamble also shows respect to the various religious traditions of the country. (‘We recognise the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. We value the various religious traditions of our country.’)
The Constitution recognises the collective rights of traditional ethnic minorities. Traditional ethnic minorities are legally defined (one of the conditions is their presence in the country for over a century) and their list is fixed by law (Act CLXXIX/2011.). Agreements with some minority churches relate to their impact in preserving the ethnic community, for example the agreement between the Serb Orthodox diocese of Buda and the Government (2012). Similar agreements have been concluded by other Orthodox Churches too. The Act on National Minorities acknowledges the right of minorities to exercise their religion in their native language ; this right is dependent on their faith communities to a large extent. That right shall, therefore, be respected, but cannot be enforced by the state.

Any minor religious communities can easily obtain the official status of religious associations. The multi-tier system of religious communities (adopted in 2011), however, expects recognised churches to cooperate with the state with regard to public services (education, health care, etc.). Religious associations can also set up institutions providing public services, but cannot expect public funding for them.

Among officially recognised churches, the only newly emerging communities are the ‘Faith Church’ – an evangelical congregation - and the Hungarian branch of ISKCON. A number of ‘older’ communities that in the past were regarded as destructive sects have been recognised since. These include Jehovah Witnesses, the Salvation Army, Nazarenes, Adventists, Methodists, Latter-Day Saints. A number of traditional minorities, including various Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist communities, have also been recognised. All these minority communities are included in the ‘upper tier’ of the multi-tier system.

Hungary is less affected by international migration than most European countries. Communities impacted by immigrants or resident aliens go from the Anglican Church to the Coptic Church and Islam. Some minorities have been weakened, others strengthened by migration : after World War I many Serbs left Hungary for Yugoslavia, and since World War I many ethnic Hungarian Unitarians from Transylvania settled in Hungary. Some minorities suffered tensions between newcomers and traditional members : for example, the majority of the Armenian community in Hungary living in the country since the 17th century is (Uniate) Armenian Catholic. While preserving some Armenian traditions and roots, this community is highly integrated. On the contrary, Armenians who have settled in Hungary during or after the Soviet era are mostly affiliated to the Armenian Apostolic Church and speak Armenian as their native language.

Based on census data and data provided by the Muslim community, the size of the Muslim community in Hungary is estimated between 6,000 and 30-50,000 members. According to census data, approximately 50% of Muslims in Hungary have part Turkish, part Arabic roots. 50% also stated that they are Hungarian. The age composition of the Muslim community clearly suggests a dynamic growth.

Minorities within minorities may have special dynamism. For example, the Lubavitch Movement (Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation) has become a highly visible player on the religious scene, attracting many young people in search of their Jewish roots.

D 9 février 2021    ABalázs Schanda

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