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Hungarians’ wounded memories

November 5, 2015
Alex M. Saunders, MD
San Carlos

Here is a comment on Lenny Barretto’s letter (“Prelate’s remarks intolerant,” Oct. 22). He asks, “Why then single out Islam and Muslims as a threat to Europe?”

To make my point of view clear, I am a first-generation immigrant. My parents left Hungary just before the onset of World War II. I am completely grateful to both Canada and the United States for hospitality and opportunity. It gives me both appreciation and insight on the present issue. The source of the apparently shocking statement by Hungarian Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo has an important historical explanation.

The answer to Barretto is that in a previous invasion Muslims devastated much of Europe. Especially in Hungary, where the Turks held power for 150 years, it was an attempted racial elimination by religious fanaticism, murder, enslavement and constant war. When the Islamic Turks left, there was a population vacuum in the fertile plains of Hungary that was filled by immigrants from adjacent countries because there were no Hungarians to populate the land. It is a curious quirk of history that Hungary assimilated these immigrants, who rapidly became Hungarian in attitude and nationality.

The historical effect of Muslim enslavement of Hungarians is no different than the historical enslavement of people in America. Victims have wounded memories that last for many generations. Remaining attitudes are most difficult to understand if one’s ancestors were not the victims.

History does not excuse Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo, but does help us understand the origin of his remarks. 

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