Tens of Thousands Attend Friday Protest

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Tens of thousands of people attended a demonstration held yesterday in the wake of the presidential pardon case which led to the resignation of Hungarian President Katalin Novák.

A major political scandal erupted over Hungarian President Katalin Novák's decision to pardon a man convicted as an accomplice in a child sexual abuse case at a children's home in the countryside town of Bicske. The man, Endre K., was jailed for persuading children to withdraw their testimony of sexual abuse against the director of the orphanage, according to the BBC. The pardon was one of 25 issued in April 2023 ahead of a visit by Pope Francis, but Endre K.'s name only came to light early this month.

Novák decided to resign last Saturday. and Judit Varga, who countersigned the pardon as the then Minister of Justice, followed suit soon after, resigning her seat in parliament and announcing she would retire from public life.

However, the wave of resignations did not stop there, as Zoltán Balog decided to resign from his position as Synod President of the Hungarian Reformed Church on Friday, news site Telex reported.

In the video posted on the church's website, Balog, who admitted that he was one of the supporters of Endre K.'s pardon proposal, asked God to forgive him for not being "vigilant and prudent enough" and for not seeing "the dangers for our country, for our nation, our church, and our president that were lurking in this pardon case."

Balog served as an MP of Viktor Orbán's national-conservative Fidesz party between 2006 and 2018. He was also Hungary's Minister of Human Resources between 2012 and 2018.

Influencers Raise Their Voices for Child Abuse Victims

The protest was organized not by political parties, but by online content producers who called for a demonstration to raise their voices for the protection of victims, transparency, human decency, and honest social dialogue.

Márton Gulyás thanked the participants at the beginning of the event for standing up for victims.    

Zsolt Osváth, who mentioned that he grew up in an institution, said he wanted to draw attention to systemic problems, "the problems of which the clemency case is just the tip of the iceberg". The institution will never be able to replace the family, but the state must do all it can to "at least not make the absence of the family biting at the heart", he said, according to news agency MTI

He stressed that he was not here to overthrow a government and call for ministers to resign. While it is not all the same who makes the decisions, those for whom the decisions have to be made are far more important.

Márton Szabó asked three questions: what will the government do to ensure that children in state care grow up in decent conditions; what will the government do to ensure that they receive a quality education that prepares them for life; and what will the government do to ensure that they have somewhere to turn to in case of abuse?

In a video message, singer Attila "Azahriah" Baukó said, "The total dismantling of education and allowing sick and unscrupulous people suffering from pedophilia to come near children is something that does not stink for those in power, as long as there is a political interest behind it."

Digital content producer Orsi Tapasztó spoke as an adoptive parent. She pointed out that there are 7,000 children living in children's homes in Hungary, and most of them will never find a family. She thanked the educators working in the homes who teach children to love and give them back the ability to trust. She called on decisionmakers to ensure that all children are safe and that all children's homes are "a place of excellence". 

Eszter Fancsikai said she agreed with the prime minister that child abusers should be "torn into pieces". She added that if she does this as a mother, it is considered vigilante justice, which is why we need real child protection and a well-functioning legal system.

Edina Pottyondy criticized the lack of an independent investigation into the pardon decision and called the HUF 4.5 million monthly allowance of the resigned president a "salary for staying silent". In her opinion, real child protection would mean strengthening education, the social and health sectors, and child protection authorities. 

Closing the event, Márton Gulyás said that the "Utcáról Lakásba Egyesület" (Street to Homes Association) was setting up a fund for a young person who had been abused and was now homeless; they would like to raise 25 million forints and had started collecting among the participants of the demonstration.

While the official program of the demonstration passed without major incidents, after its conclusion, several hundred participants marched from Heroes' Square to Lendvay utca, where they got into an argument with the police protecting the Fidesz headquarters, MTI notes.

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