26 Oct 2017

What are Poles really praying for?

Phrases of "prayer for peace" mingled with those about not letting refugees in and threats posed by Muslims. Xenophobia is key to Rosary to the Border.

Zuzanna Piechowicz
Zuzanna Piechowicz Tok FM, Poland
Source: Tok FM
What are Poles really praying for? - NewsMavens
The Rosary, held tightly. Pixabay (CC0)

Why this story matters:

In cities and border towns, at airports and hospitals, on military bases and mountain hiking trails -- that's where thousands of Poles prayed the rosary in a recent Różaniec do granic (Rosary to the Border) campaign. Why? Well, according to its organizers, Western Europe is rejecting God and yielding to Islamization. Which is threatening Poland. But that's not the only threat to the beloved homeland perceived by these praying Poles. The faithful prayed for divine protection from Germany and Russia as well. The campaign was supported by the Catholic Church's representatives in Poland, some politicians and many celebrities.

Its organizers threw back to historic events. Such as the Oct. 7, 1571, Battle of Lepanto in which the papal Holy League's navy beat a more numerous Ottoman Empire fleet's offensive. In tribute, the Church dubbed Oct. 7 the feast of Our Lady of Victory, which was later changed to Our Lady of the Rosary. That's the story put forward by Maciej Bodasiński, the film director and Rosary to the Border organizer from the right-wing Telewizja Republika television station. 

Phrases of "prayer for peace" mingled with those about not letting refugees in and threats posed by Muslims. Xenophobia is key to Rosary to the Border. Wojciech Lemański, a former priest, and public figure who promotes Polish-Jewish ties, said on Facebook: "Ask these people why they went to the border. They went to call on the name of God and call on the Mother of God's intercession against... refugees, who look for help, shelter, a roof over their heads. When Pope Francis asked them to find a home for a single refugee family in their parishes, his appeal landed on deaf ears. When he asked them to pray for those poor people, you could count on the fingers of your hand the number of churches in Poland which did".

The BBC called Rosary to the Border "controversial". And one MP from the ruling conservative Law and Justice party in Poland announced he would demand the BBC explain itself. Honestly, I can't wait to see how that goes down.

OK. We know that Poles are skeptical about refugees. According to pollster CBOS, 70% of Poles don't want them in their country. That's nothing new. For a xenophobic campaign to be supported by Prime Minister Beata Szydło? I don't think too many Poles who are up to date with Poland's political scene would be surprised by that.

It was also supported by other politicians. In fact, Rosary to the Border prayers were also held in a chapel in the parliament building in Warsaw. Senate Speaker Stanisław Karczewski tweeted: "Praying the Rosary gives us strength and strengthens our faith that we are not alone in our need".

So it's business as usual in Polish politics. Their law -- xenophobia, racism, stereotyping refugees and Muslims -- is the sad daily reality coming straight from ruling party politicians. The only difference is that Rosary to the Border made it that much more spectacular. 

The cherry on top was that Rosary to the Border got financial backing from state companies, namely Polish Security Printing Works (which makes Poland's banknotes) and the Energa energy company. So all of Poland's taxpayers contributed to Rosary to the Border. We just don't know how much support we gave because those companies are refusing to divulge how much they donated. They weren't alone in supporting the campaign, state company PolRegio train operator offered 1 PLN tickets for participants.

Details from the story:

  • thousands of Poles prayed for peace across Poland
  • the organizers said the campaign answers the Virgin Mary's plea 140 years ago at Gietrzwałd and 100 years ago at Fatima that the Rosary be prayed daily
  • the campaign was financially backed by state companies
  • it was supported by ruling party politicians including Prime Minister Beata Szydło
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