Churches in Poland call for tolerance after killing of Gdansk mayor

From left: Lutheran Bishop Jerzy Samiec, President of the Polish Ecumencial Council and Orthodox Archbishop Abel, Diocese of Lublin-Chełm of the Church of Poland. Photo: PEC
From left: Lutheran Bishop Jerzy Samiec, President of the Polish Ecumencial Council and Orthodox Archbishop Abel, Diocese of Lublin-Chełm of the Church of Poland. Photo: PEC

Lutheran Bishop Samiec underscores actions that promote reconciliation

(LWI) - The Polish Ecumenical Council (PEC), headed by Lutheran Bishop Jerzy Samiec, has urged the country to “stop the spiral of hate” following the brutal murder of the mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz.

The mayor was stabbed in front of hundreds of people on 13 January during a major fundraising event for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the country.  He died the following day. A 27-year-old man has been arrested.

The attack stunned the country that has been increasingly divided politically, with thousands condemning hate speech in vigils organized across cities following the murder.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member church, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, which Samiec heads, is one of the seven churches and two associate groups that make up PEC.

In a statement read out by Samiec at a meeting attended by church leaders, representatives of other faith groups and the government, the ecumenical body said the attack underscored the hatred and prejudice currently ravaging the country. Appealing for tolerance, PEC stated, “We are not divided in such a way that we cannot talk to each other or forgive each other. We should respect every human being. Every person, created in the image and likeness of God, has his or her dignity.”

Let us learn to talk to one another, let us not fight each other. Let us also try to take action that will serve reconciliation and the common good.
Statement by the Polish Ecumenical Council

The churches affirmed the obligation to oppose prejudice and hate speech and show solidarity with those who suffer because of such acts. “Let us learn to talk to one another, let us not fight each other. Let us also try to take action that will serve reconciliation and the common good,” they said.

The PEC president made an impassioned plea to end hate speech in Poland, saying that threatening adversaries with death is unacceptable and that the church must speak out loudly against such behavior. He charged that all of Polish society bears some responsibility for the tragic death of the mayor of Gdansk, saying, “We didn’t love people enough and we forgot to show this love with our lives. There is not enough humbleness in us, people of the church.”

Commenting on the role of churches in such situations, Samiec emphasized the need to offer prayers, show love to others as Jesus Christ did, and denounce stigmatization in society.

He said the Lutheran church is considering how its educational program for youth could be an opportunity to teach young people about non-violent communication. “It is important to educate young people for democracy, tolerance and understanding the otherness.”

At its governing board meeting, 17-18 January, the church made a resolution to contribute PL 10,000 (EUR 2,332 ) toward the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity as an expression of solidarity with the organization, and opposition to the current violence and aggression in public debate. Bishop Samiec is also encouraging all congregations to collect donations toward the charity, as a tribute to Mayor Adamowicz.    

In its 2019 New Year message, the LWF encouraged churches to become peacebuilders in their communities.

 

LWF New Year Message 2019