Letter: Polish emigre reflects on World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Dear Editor,

I see that this Sunday is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. In his message to mark the day, Pope Francis stresses the need to create a welcoming environment for migrants and refugees stating that:

"Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age."

As a Polish emigre who settled in this country after the Second World War, my family and I were always grateful for the hospitality shown to us here. We in turn have always welcomed younger Polish friends and relatives who have come here to work or study. Through the years our parish community also welcomed Hungarians in 1956, Vietnamese in the 1970s and others.

It saddens me when I hear people criticising modern Poland, who have refused to take in a single refugee from the war-torn Middle East or Africa although Poland has accepted many Ukrainian refugees. I am sure the government policy does not reflect the attitude of many ordinary people there.

It is worth remembering that historically, Poland has a noble history of welcoming the stranger. At a time when most countries in Europe had pogroms and drove out the Jews - in 1264, the great King Boleslaw granted a special charter inviting the Jews to live there. This was an amazing document, granting Jews unprecedented rights and privileges. For example, it stated that:

• "The testimony of the Christian alone may not be admitted in a matter which concerns the money or property of a Jew. In every such incidence there must be the testimony of both a Christian and a Jew. If a Christian injures a Jew in any which way, the accused shall pay a fine to the royal treasury."

• "If a Christian desecrates or defiles a Jewish cemetery in any which way, it is our wish that he be punished severely as demanded by law."

• "If a Christian should attack a Jew, the Christian shall be punished as required by the laws of this land. We absolutely forbid anyone to accuse the Jews in our domain of using the blood of human beings."

• "We affirm that if any Jew cry out in the night as a result of violence done to him, and if his Christian neighbors fail to respond to his cries and do not bring the necessary help, they shall be fined."

• "We also affirm that Jews are free to buy and sell all manner of things just as Christians, and if anyone hampers them, he shall pay a fine."

Olgierd Pasternak

Tags: Poland, Refugees, Migrants

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