Austria's fate is now at stake.
Perhaps it was a coincidence that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and tipped to be the next Pope, chose September 12, the anniversary of the Siege of Vienna, when Turkey's Ottoman troops nearly conquered Europe, to deliver a most dramatic appeal to save Europe's Christian roots.
"Many Muslims want and say that 'Europe is finished'," Cardinal Schönborn said, before accusing Europe of "forgetting its Christian identity." He then denounced the possibility of "an Islamic conquest of Europe."
Konrad Pesendorfer, head of the Austrian Office of Statistics, said that by 2030, 40% of the population of Vienna will be foreign-born, thanks to internal demography and migration flows (60,000 arrivals in just one year).
Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, much of Eastern Europe's Christian population spent centuries under Islamic occupation, particularly under the Ottomans. It now seems that the clock has reverted to 1683, when Ottoman armies were at the gates of Vienna.
It is not a coincidence that the fierce resistance of Eastern Europeans has been the main impediment to a unified response by the European Union to the migrant crisis. It was these Eastern states that forced German Chancellor Angela Merkel to halt the massive flux of migrants. Today, where there is no border, migrants keep coming en masse. In August alone, 23,000 migrants arrived in Italy.
Brussels is whipping up a propaganda war to cast the Western Europeans, who favor unvetted Muslim migration, as cosmopolitan and tolerant, and Eastern Europeans as a bunch of xenophobic bigots, if not outright neo-Nazis.
Europe's educated elite might do well to listen to their Eastern brethren. These countries, ironically, are the core of the "new Europe," the last to join the European project and the very countries, having escaped from authoritarian regimes, which should have revived it. Brussels' policy is now pushing this Eastern bloc back under Russia's sphere of influence.
The Eastern Europeans' reluctance to open the doors to massive Muslim migration can be explained by the economic crisis, falling birth rates, their relatively homogenous societies, the persecution of the Christians under Communism, memories of a conflict with Islam dating back to the Middle Ages, and the attempt by Brussels to impose a cultural agenda. The European Parliament, in fact, has constantly passed resolutions pressuring conservative East European member-states such as Poland, Hungary and Croatia, to legalize same-sex marriage and abortion on demand.
The President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, calls him "Viktator" Orbán. But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, defiant, is going ahead with the construction of a wall on Hungary's border with Serbia. When Communism fell, Hungary was the first country to open the Iron Curtain and let people out. Now it is first country to erect a fence to keep people out. Orbán is also planning an additional fence along that border.
Orbán is the Eastern nemesis of the European elite. No one else in Europe except him speaks about defending "Christianity." The "Visegrad-4," the alliance between Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia, want to distinguish between Christian and Muslim immigrants. Orbán has the support of Hungarian bishops who oppose Pope Francis' open-armed policy toward migrants.
In an opinion piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, Orbán wrote:
"Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity."
Orbán's rebelliousness goes back to his student days in 1989, when he was at the funeral of Imre Nagy, who led the anti-Soviet insurrection of 1956 -- Orbán had the courage to demand the withdrawal of the communist invaders.
Orbán later led Hungary into NATO.
Son of a communist and a Calvinist mother, Orbán has a devout Catholic wife and five children. To those who question whether he is a reactionary, Orbán replies: "I eat with a fork and a knife, but we are not nice guys from the mainstream." For him, the European Commission is a kind of new politburo. "We did not tolerate being dictated to from Vienna in 1848 nor from Moscow in 1956 and 1990," Orbán said. "Now we're not going to allow ourselves to be dictated to by anyone from Brussels or anywhere else."
Orbán's speeches are full of historical references, as when he asked Hungarians to behave with the same courage shown by their ancestors "in the war against the Ottoman armies."
The Hungarian constitution is unique in Europe; it protects "life from conception" and says that marriages can take place only between a man and a woman.
Orbán's approach has been adopted by other ex-communist members of the EU. Poland's President Andrzej Duda complained about "dictates" from Brussels to accept migrants flowing into the Continent from the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile Poland's Law and Justice Party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, appealed "to an old historical viewpoint, according to which Poland is a bulwark for Christianity in the East and must save Europe from itself."
"Since its adoption of Christianity in 966, Poland has often played the role of Antemurale Christianitatis, a bastion of Christendom," according to Crisis Magazine.
"From halting the European advance of Mongols at the Battle of Legnica in 1241, to saving Europe from Muslim colonization when King John III Sobieski defeated the Turks at Vienna in 1683, this has been reinforced. Communism failed to extinguish Polish Catholicism, when John Paul II was elected pope in 1978 and inspired the rise of the Solidarity movement, which playing a crucial role in ending communism. More recently, Polish immigrants have filled hitherto empty pews in Western Europe. During the current Vatican synod on the family, Polish bishops have been among the most vocal defenders of tradition."
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is the Eastern nemesis of the European elite. No one else in Europe except him speaks about defending "Christianity." Right: Poland's King John III Sobieski in battle against the Ottoman Turks at Vienna, in 1683.
The prime minister of another Eastern European country, Robert Fico of Slovakia, said his country will accept only Christian refugees; that Islam "has no place" in his country and that "multiculturalism is a fiction."
Czech President Milos Zeman also attacked multiculturalism. Even Socratis Hasikos, Cyprus' interior minister, said that his country would accept refugees but wanted them to be Christians. For many Cypriots, the line that divides the island is a frontier between Greek Christianity and Turkish Islam, just as the Berlin Wall was a frontier between democracy and communism.
As the prestigious American Catholic magazine First Things noted, "in Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, a pro-family, pro-life revolution and a rediscovery of Christian roots is occurring."
Like it or not, the last chance to save Europe's roots might well come from the former communist members of the EU -- those who defeated the Ottomans in 1699 and now feel culturally threatened by their heirs.
Cypriots know much better than the comfortable bureaucrats of Brussels the consequences of a cultural collision. Ask about their churches on the Turkish side of the island; how many of them are still standing?
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.