As Poland prepares to welcome Pope Francis for World Youth Day a statement from the Vatican has denounced an “artificially created fear of Muslims” in the country which it says is being fed by some political parties.
The problem, it states, derive from the fact that Poland is “ethnically homogenous” meaning that to many Polish people immigration is something new and seen as strange by many.
The press release, written by a spokesman for the country’s bishops’ conference but distributed by the Holy See’s press office, says fears have been exacerbated by a lack of public debate, complicated migration procedures and no public programme of teaching people in the country Polish about diversity.
“Unfortunately these fears are fuelled by some political parties, and inappropriate statements made by politicians,” writes Fr Pawel Rytel-Andrianik in statement which he stressed was summary of debate in the media on the issue. “There is an artificially created fear of Muslims understandable indeed in some ways (terrorist attacks). Poland borders Germany, which has a large Muslim population, and on the border they do not run some regular checks.”
The statement goes on to praise the generosity of the Polish church in welcoming refugees from the Middle East and North Africa including raising 1.2 million Euros to help and assisting 3,000 migrants annually. It adds that the Polish bishops made an appeal to help refugees a day before the Pope made his 6 September call for every parish and religious house to accept one migrant family.
The press release will be read as trying to play down tensions between the Polish hierarchy and Francis who has made welcoming migrants a key part of his pontificate and has called on Europe’s leaders to find better ways to integrate new arrivals to the continent.
The bishops in Poland are close to the country’s ruling Law and Justice party, a government that has refused to accept its European Union quota of migrants – tensions over the issue have been rising in the country with incidents where asylum seekers have been attacked.