Straddling the romantic Danube River, with the Buda Hills to the west and the start of the Great Plain to the east, Budapest is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its streets are lined with baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau architectural gems.
The churches, in particular, attract hordes of tourists every year.
But on Sunday? If you would walk inside, you wouldn’t have trouble finding a seat.
“About 23 percent of the people in Hungary are atheists and that is a very high percentage,” said Viktor Hamm, who is directing the June 1-3 Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham in Budapest.
“Research done in Russia indicates that even 45 to 50 percent of those who do belong to the historical churches in Hungary don’t believe in God,” said Hamm.
“But,” he added, “only God knows which people really believe in Him and have a living faith in Christ. It is up to Him to judge.”
The bulk of Christians in Budapest belong to one of the Reform, Lutheran or Catholic churches. Evangelical churches are not that numerous, said Hamm, yet they are quite active: “We are very pleased that 312 churches are taking part in the upcoming Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham.”
One factor influencing spiritual life in Hungary is the impact of the Communist era. “The last couple of generations grew up without God, without any knowledge of truth or of any kind of spiritual roots,” said Hamm.
“When Hungary joined the European Union,” he explained, “church leaders hoped everything would change. And while many things did change—doors were open, people were free to travel, Western countries came in with industry and their products—very soon they realized that the new freedom they gained had introduced tremendous social and moral problems that they didn’t have before.”
The leaders of today are very aware of the growing need for a new wave of renewal within churches.
“A lot of young people are leaving the country, a lot of cults are coming in, and the evangelical leaders of Hungary came to us when we had a Franklin Graham Festival in Romania several years ago to invite us and ask for help,” said Hamm.
“Church leaders are not only interested in sharing the Gospel with people, but they want to make sure that the church moves from an historical status quo to a living dynamic faith in the 21st century.”
The pastors, according to Hamm, appreciate BGEA’s thorough approach to evangelism. “They know this is not just a weekend event. We have invested a whole year in encouraging and mobilizing the churches so the trust is there.
“They believe in the power of the Gospel,” said Hamm.
The Festival of Hope on June 1-3 will contribute to the effort by the Hungarian churches to keep evangelism alive; to provide an opportunity and a platform for people to hear the word of God.
“Since the Gospel has been proclaimed for centuries by local churches,” said Hamm, “we will be joining hands with them and re-proclaiming the Gospel.
“This Festival will contribute to the united efforts of the local churches. We are re-proclaiming the Gospel to a generation that is basically living in hopelessness.”
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