The Sallux means “salt and light,” which can also be applied to the geopolitical sphere. “Sallux wants to spark a salted debate where needed and to shed light on the issues we face. Sallux presents solutions and will not stay on the safe side of the status quo. [It is] an association that acts as the political foundation for the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM). Formerly known as Christian Political Foundation for Europe (CPFE), [it] supports and underpins the ECPM, especially in terms of political content by Pan-European cooperation and the introduction of analysis, ideas, and policy options,” as is written on its site.
Author: Jared Feldschreiber
Considering the many current challenges facing Europe, CEA’s Zoltán Kész has caught up with de Jong to delve into some of the tenets of Christian democratic principles as they may apply to a most turbulent time for the continent. Many geopolitical experts contend that Europe is confronting its biggest crisis since the end of World War II. In this EXCLUSIVE CEA Talk podcast, de Jong argues world leaders should demonstrate equal concern for marginalized groups in nations, which may not always be in the news, as much as they are invested in helping Ukraine win its fight for democracy and its statehood against Russia.
“Sallux is a European foundation, and it is one of the ten registered European political foundations in Europe,” explains de Jong. “We’re the smallest, so we’re the most flexible, and this means we can venture out to areas where other political foundations are more constrained by political interests. So, by connecting issues of the economy, we can be more innovative in presenting solutions for issues Europe is facing at this moment.”
While perhaps seen as a weighty and ambiguous goal for many citizens living in increasingly secularized European countries, the notion of Christian democracy still applies to the notion of human dignity, argues de Jong. “The essence, as we see it, is a relational understanding of human dignity valuing life, family, and community.” The fundamentals of Christian democracy are, thus, “a series of “notions rather than an essence. The problem is that it is a kind of a mishmash of all kinds of emotions and notions [such as “nations,” “churches,” conservative economics”], which are partially connected and disconnected. But there is no central idea in it anymore. We’re basically back to the roots — to the core of Christian democracy — and here and there, we redefine it in the context of Europe and within the context of our time. This is what we’re aiming for.”
CEA’s Kész and Mr. de Jong agree that the tenets of Christian democratic values have, indeed, receded in recent years, in large part to the age of the rise of the strongman – as best epitomized by Hungary’s head of state. “[This has been] to the detriment of the [European Union] because interestingly, the EU is human dignity at its very prime [and] foundational notion. It’s [found within] the first article of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. A lot of what we do is placed implicitly on this notion,” says de Jong.
As for Central European politics, and specifically, in Hungary, Kész contends that the rise of populism supplanted whatever sanguine notions of Christian democracy there may have been once communism rule ended in the early 1990s.
What happened in Hungary… is basically part of a much bigger development,” responds de Jong. “You see the same pattern of Christian-democratic parties’ copy-pasting talking points from populists. You see it everywhere in Europe. The other way is going very liberal. The relationship between right-wing groups and Christian democracy — I’m talking about from a European perspective — is in the ‘emotion of nostalgia.’”
Issues like Brexit in the U.K. and the notion of ‘the past being better’ can be seen as “problematic because nostalgia in Hungary means something different than to nostalgia in the Netherlands. It means something else in France [or] in the U.K. So, what I see in Central Europe is a hearkening back to the 19th century,” says de Jong.
Kész counters this notion, however, underscoring that nostalgia, at least portrayed by politicians, is attributed to “not necessarily a particular period, but [serving] a populace who [searches] for a strong state that will solve their problems, like during the communist times.”
“Let me clarify this,” considers de Jong. “At Sallux, we don’t have a specific opinion on the government in Hungary, but in general, when it comes to the ‘notion of nostalgia,’ I’m simply reminding myself of the second time I came to Hungary. I still remember that there [was a lot of mention] of the past. The past was basically when Hungary was not divided. Nostalgia is undefined,” concedes de Jong.
The lack of human dignity can best be found in the war in Ukraine as peace remains a long way off. “I have many friends in Ukraine. Some of them are in the army and a lot of people have died. It’s absolutely horrific. It could be a consequence of these totalitarian systems that are not just dominating Russia, but also in China, Iran, parts of Africa [and the] Middle East. This brings us to another point, and this is connected to human dignity,” says de Jong. “We have now seen what appeasement of Russia has brought us: problems. But we continue to appease other totalitarian regimes in the world, and we don’t see this as the same game. I refer to my work with Iraq and Syria — especially [with] Syria, [as we prepare] for our big conference at Sallux in Amsterdam. This is interesting when you see Russia and other actors, like Iran and China expanding their influence, and we are already feeling the consequence of that.”
Johannes de Jong concludes that democratic world leaders should also have their laser focus set on helping marginalized groups in largely ignored places as much as they have assisted Ukraine over the last year. The need for universal human dignity need not stop because of geographical boundaries or because of one’s race. “What is happening is the appeasement of other evil actors. We continue to ignore what is happening in Africa — not completely — but by and large. We should help Ukraine and ‘the Other,’ so it’s not an ‘or-or’ but an ‘and-and.’”
Cover photo credit: Envato
Johannes de Jong, the director of the Sallux Foundation based in the Netherlands, has worked with many marginalized communities, largely in the Middle East. Leading up to his current post, which he’s held for over a decade, de Jong also served as the director of the Christian Political Foundation for Europe where he spent time working with Syriac Christians of Iraq and Syria, as well as with the Yazidis, the Turkmen people of Iraq, and the Syrian Kurds. With his work at Sallux Foundation since 2011, de Jong has largely focused on economic and international relations concerns, and his general tasks deal with management, finance, and consultancy with matters pertinent to European politics and policy. The foundation’s credo states, “it is often necessary to shed a new light on issues and work on new paradigms to find solutions… in the challenges we are confronted with.”