“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember … those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body” (Heb 13:2–3).
Europe’s Nations and Churches are facing the huge challenge of a major migrant crisis. Approximately three million people from Africa and Asia have crossed the borders of the European Union. Some are fleeing from war and religious persecution, while others are in search of a better life.
The current situation is testing the concept of cooperation between States within the European Union, and the polarization of positions on how to deal effectively with the crisis of migration has become noticeable. Poland is also faced with this challenge.
The obligations of Christians in this area stem from divine Revelation and the Churches’ Tradition. In Genesis, we read that when the country where Abraham was living was struck by a famine, he went to Egypt and settled there as a foreigner (cf. Gen 12:10). Likewise, the patriarch Jacob, obeying God’s command, moved to Egypt with his family and possessions, and there they were saved from starvation and death (cf. Gen 42:16; 46:17). Our Lord Jesus Christ and his family also experienced the fate of the refugees, when they had to flee from Herod’s wrath (cf. Mt 2:13–15). The task of the Churches is to educate hearts that, through concrete works of mercy, will help those who suffer, those who are fleeing from war, persecution and death. Such an attitude towards other people has been the hallmark of Christians since the origins of the Church.
Our country has often been a refuge for those obliged to flee from persecution. In Jagiellonian times, our lands became famous for their hospitality. Then, after losing their independence, the Poles also experienced it in other countries. In the 1980s, countries of Western Europe helped us. A decade later, Polish hospitality was extended to Belarusians, Ukrainians and Chechens. This should be continued, and the education to hospitality ought to be an expression of the Christian sensibility and national tradition.
There is no doubt that the solution to the migrant problem in Poland and in Europe requires the cooperation of people of good will on many levels. What is needed is generosity and prudence, openness of heart and the establishment of rights guaranteeing the dignity of its own citizens and of those who ask for help.
Christians should strive to cooperate with the relevant state authorities and social organizations. Only broad-based humanitarian action and consideration of the political and economic causes of the existing problems can lead to real improvement in the situation. We hope that this may also boost the development of volunteering, including at the level of our parishes, so that the emerging problems can be dealt with effectively and responsibly.
We should not lose sight of the main causes of the current migrant crisis, i.e. the wars in the Middle East and in Africa. Therefore, prayer for peace is necessary, just as are all mediation efforts and the continuous appeal to the consciences of those in power. Many people have stayed in their countries and expect that our aid will be sent directly to the affected regions. At the same time, we must care for those who have decided to leave the land of their ancestors. We call upon the faithful of our Churches to continue praying and providing assistance to the needy. We will unceasingly work to overcome the present crisis.
We trust that God will enlighten the eyes of our hearts, so that we may respond, with evangelical love, to Christ’s call: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).
Warsaw, 30 June 2016. On behalf of the Churches affiliated to the Polish Council for Ecumenism and the Polish Episcopal Conference
Pastor Leszek Wakuła
Pastor of the Central District of the Baptist Church in Poland
Bishop Jerzy Samiec
Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland
Bishop Andrzej Malicki
Chief Superintendent of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Poland
Bishop Marek Izdebski
Bishop of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Poland
Bishop Wiktor Wysoczański
Bishop of the Polish Catholic Church in Poland
Bishop Mark M. Charles Babi
Bishop Chief of the Old-Catholic Mariavite Church in Poland
His Beatitude Sawa
Orthodox Archbishop of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland
Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki
President of the Polish Episcopal Conference