To Hungary with love

When Hungarian members of the newly elected Parliament came to work Monday morning, they were met with a gigantic heart-shaped balloon in front of the stone building.

Amnesty International had set up a 10-meter-tall red heart to tell politicians that activists and organizations working to make Hungary a safe and fair place for all need to be defended, not attacked or threatened with jail time.

It was a timely reminder. These days, Hungarian MPs are discussing a draconian legislative proposal submitted by the government to the Parliament on 29 May – dubbed ‘Stop Soros’. The set of laws aims, among other things, to criminalize those helping asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants and to instill fear and silence civil society.

But when those in power go low, we soar and demonstrate that love is stronger than hate.

More than 22,000 people from 50+ countries have sent messages of love and solidarity to civil society in Hungary, also urging politicians to vote down the damaging proposal and defend activists and organizations working in Hungary.

The striking images of the giant red heart in front of the imposing white Parliament building, framed by a light blue sky and decorated with beaming rays of sunlight, stands as a powerful symbol of the courage and resilience of activists and organizations in the country, and the warming worldwide support they have received.

Amnesty Hungary director Julia Ívan expressed her feelings on Twitter after the stunt, which was carried out with activists and other non-governmental organisations such as the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

But although the skies were clear on Monday, dark clouds have been looming in the sky of Hungary for a long time. The abovementioned law proposal has been circulated in various versions since January, leaving activists and organisations in a constant state of anxiety and stress, never knowing what will hit them next.

Civil society in Hungary has also been exposed to a vicious and ongoing smearing campaign by the authorities for years, including the latest targeting of around 200 activists, academics, lawyers, journalists and many others in a pro-government publication.

Therefore, international support and solidarity are crucial to keep hope alive for the people working so hard and relentlessly for a fair and safe Hungary.

Many of the messages of support were also put together in a booklet of solidarity, that was handed out to MPs in front of the gigantic heart outside the Parliament building on 4 June, just ahead of the parliamentarian debate on the new draft legislative pack.

The world is watching while MPs are about to decide whether to take Hungary yet another leap away from a society based on values of compassion, solidarity and human rights; a society based on love rather than hate.

They still have time to do the one and only right thing: Vote down the proposed set of laws.