The Prime Minister and the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić jointly inaugurated the city’s newly renovated synagogue. In his speech Mr. Orbán highlighted that today we are living in times when “the past opens a gate towards a common future”, and this future must mean that Hungarians, Serbs and Jews can live together in peace and safety. He also expressed gratitude for this to Mr. Vučić, to Serbia and to Vojvodina/ Vajdaság. This future has already begun, he said, and “Hungarians and Serbs are writing it together”.
Mr. Orbán stressed that the inauguration of the synagogue is a message that “this is the world, this is the Europe that we want to live in, that we represent […] and that we shall defend”.
The Prime Minister pointed out that today Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Protestants are able to celebrate the rebirth of the building together with their Jewish brothers and sisters in peace and safety because they live in a Europe in which every individual is free to practise their religion. However, he said, if people allow “Europe’s cultural subsoil to be replaced”, the future will be written by others.
He stated that in a great many places around the world today such events could not be held at all, because in those places Jews and Christians are being persecuted. There are also places in Western Europe, he said, where synagogues and churches are being torn down, rather than renovated. “But we are proud of our religious heritage”, he said, and therefore in 2014 – in the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year – the Hungarian government decided to launch a synagogue renovation programme with a budget of HUF 10 billion, and several buildings have been renovated as a result.
Mr. Orbán observed that the goal is a safe and viable future for Central Europe and Hungary, and “In this Europe we can envisage our future, and naturally this future features Serbia […], the EU membership of which we are pressing for”.
He said that Central Europe is a wonderful place, where it is perfectly natural for a synagogue to be decorated with Hungarian folk art motifs. “Here many centuries have moulded together the peoples who live alongside each other”, he said.
The Prime Minister said that there is a good chance that 26 March 2018 will be remembered as a day on which Central Europe presented its most attractive face to the world, with the Serbian president and the Hungarian prime minister joining Jewish leaders to inaugurate Europe’s second largest renovated synagogue, “our common cultural heritage” and the gem of the city. He stressed the significance of respect for Jewish culture and the Jewish people, and the fact that Jews have greatly contributed to the economic, cultural and academic achievements of Serbia, Hungary and Europe. Today, he said, joint tribute is being paid to “a brave and close-knit community”.
Mr. Orbán highlighted that the synagogue survived the most turbulent decades of the 20th century, and when under communism its very survival was at stake, the city stood up in unity for its preservation. The renovation of the synagogue clearly demonstrates what Serbs, Jews and Hungarians are capable of if they unite their efforts in the service of a noble cause, he pointed out.