The Catholic Church in Poland will hold a collection this month for migrants facing deteriorating conditions on the country’s border with Belarus.
Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, appealed to Catholics to aid the thousands of migrants caught up in a “humanitarian catastrophe” at the roughly 250-mile border between the two countries.
“I turn to the faithful and all people of goodwill with a request for a nationwide fundraising — on Sunday, Nov. 21 in all churches and chapels, through Caritas Poland — for migrants from the Belarusian-Polish border,” Gądecki said in a homily at Mass at the Holy Cross Church in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on Nov. 5.
“The funds collected during the nationwide collection will be used to finance Caritas Poland’s aid activities in the border areas during the migration crisis and the process of long-term integration of refugees who decide to stay in Poland.”
Poland, a central European country with a population of 38 million, sent troops to secure the border with Belarus after a record number of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, crossed in the summer.
The Polish government, the European Union, and NATO have accused Belarus of helping migrants to gather at the border. The Belarusian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, denies the claim.
Polish officials argue that Belarus, a landlocked Eastern European country with a population of 9.5 million, is fomenting the crisis in response to sanctions imposed by the EU after Lukashenko declared victory in a disputed presidential election in August 2020.
The border crisis has also affected Latvia and Lithuania, both of which are EU member states neighboring Belarus.
Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller said that up to 4,000 migrants were assembling near the country’s eastern frontier.
“We expect that there may be an escalation of this type of action on the Polish border in the near future, which will be of an armed nature,” he said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Nov. 8 that the United States was concerned by the situation.
“The United States strongly condemns the Lukashenka regime’s political exploitation and coercion of vulnerable people, and the regime’s callous and inhumane facilitation of irregular migration flows across its borders,” he said.
“We call on the regime to immediately halt its campaign of orchestrating and coercing irregular migrant flows across its borders into Europe.”
Caritas Poland, the country’s largest charitable organization, has delivered packs to parishes near the border containing foil blankets, water, energy bars, and hand warmers. It is also operating a program called “Tents of Hope” in the border area.
Belarus refuses to readmit the migrants after they attempt to enter Poland, leaving them stranded. Several migrants have died of hypothermia as temperatures drop.
In his homily, Gądecki said: “Regardless of the circumstances of their arrival, they certainly need our spiritual and material support.”
The archbishop of Poznań, western Poland, underlined the need to support migrants at the border in an appeal issued on Nov. 8.
“The mission of the Church is first and foremost to preach the Gospel. Consequently, when help must be given to strangers, we must not shy away from it,” Gądecki wrote.
“Without prejudice to the security of the Republic [of Poland] and its citizens, those in need must be shown our solidarity. In the current situation, the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan sounds even more urgent and awaits a universal implementation, also in the eyes of migrants themselves.”
“Let us pray fervently for peace on the eastern border of Poland, for all the migrants residing there, for the people living there, for the state services, including the Border Guard and the army, for politicians, Poles, and Belarusians.”