22 July 2021
Thirty years ago, Christian democracy seemed set for a promising start in Central Europe. Democratic leaders after 1989 were either deeply involved with the idea (Lech Wałęsa, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, József Antall) or at least recognised that religion must not be used for political conflict (Václav Havel). Yet, parties and movements shielded by Christianity were short-lived, with no longer tenure, and suffered from fragmentation. Today, politics inspired by Christianity is at a crossroads: abandoned by the secular mainstream, hijacked by nationalists.
Perhaps it was too naive to expect that Christian democratic ideas would have influenced post-communist politics in a similar way as it happened in post-Nazi Germany, post-fascist Italy or Spain? To what extent did a ‘Western’ concept of Christian democracy shape Central European politics?
Today, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán provocatively – and with quite a messianic undertone – reverses the question: Do not ask how Christian democrats influenced Central European politics but ask how Central Europe could save the Christian character of Europe.
Is he right in claiming that he represents a more authentic Christian democratic policy than his colleagues from Western Europe?