However, Macron’s remarks focused on the forced relocation Syrian refugees throughout the EU. Although the Poles never accepted the solution forced by Merkel and Hollande, they came up with another one, which seems to be at once cheaper, more ethical, and more effective.
Consulting the Syrians about their future
Since the beginning of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, EU leaders have adopted one of two different mindsets concerning how to help people in need. The first promotes the unlimited right to immigrate to Europe. The other would rather see Syrians affected by the war being assisted in their homeland or in the refugee camps in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan. The “welcoming attitude” strongly promoted by the most powerful politicians in Europe – like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French president François Hollande, together with the EU itself – is costly, encourages people who are not in danger to risk their lives trying to reach Europe, increases insecurity inside Europe, and has further hollowed out the ancient Christian communities of Middle East – ironically aiding ISIS’s goal of making Christianity totally extinct in its cradle.
The Polish government has been skeptical towards the ideas of allowing people from Middle East to immigrate to Poland. Instead, both President Andrzej Duda, and Prime Minister Beata Szydło, declared several times that Poland is ready to offer the humanitarian aid on-site. This seems to be in line with both declarations of Christian church hierarchy from Syria. Patriarch John X, of the Orthodox Christian Patriarchate of Antioch, said last year during his meeting with the Polish president, “Christians, to survive, need help, on site, in the Middle East.” He said at the Syrian Embassy in Warsaw, “Both Muslims and Christians in Syria desire to stay in their homes and their homeland; they do not want to leave the country.” Similar words were spoken by Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, the Melkite Catholic archbishop of Aleppo, who said the West should “help [refugees] stay where they are, to have the bare necessities, but also to find peace.” Poles, and the world, were amazed by Rita Basmajian, a young Syrian participant of World Youth Day in Krakow last year who, during a short interview with the nationwide television network TVN, was asked how Poles can help people in Aleppo. She replied that Syrians in Europe want to return home, and all they needed was prayers. Her public statement that she, and her companions from Aleppo, wanted to come back home despite the war in Syria shocked a certain part of the society, which believed that what Syrians want most is to become refugees in Europe.
The Polish government refused to accept the relocation of the mostly Muslim immigrants streaming into western and southern European countries like Germany or Italy out of concern for the safety of Polish citizens. It has also rejected the idea of so-called “humanitarian corridors,” conceived in Italy by Comunità di Sant’Egidio and supported by more liberal Catholic media outlets and bishops. Instead Poland, led by the Law and Justice party, announced that it is planning to double annual spending on humanitarian aid for Middle East over last year.
Poland’s cheaper, more humane policy
At this point, the charitable organization Caritas Polska launched another program aiming to help the people in need in Middle East called Rodzina Rodzinie, which means “Family for Family” in Polish. Poles can adopt a Syrian family, pledging financial support for a certain period of time. This families belong to three groups: Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the Syrian population in Aleppo, and poor Lebanese whose living condition dramatically worsted due to the influx of the Syrian refugees. In order to donate, one is supposed to choose from the website a family and to declare the help which is most often 510 Zloty ($130 U.S.) a month for at least six months. Groups, parishes, companies etc. are also welcome to participate. For those who cannot make such a commitment it is also possible to make a single donation. The idea of this program was to create a bridge between Poles and Syrians who are exhausted of the war in their country, according to Fr. Marian Subocz, the president of Caritas Polska.
On April 23, which the Roman Catholic Church celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday, an additional collection was taken in each parish in Poland after the Sunday Mass by the decision of Polish Catholic bishops.
The program has already won plaudits that anyone would covet – from the Holy See. During the April 23 Regina Caeli prayer in Vatican, Pope Francis commended the Rodzina Rodzinie program and thanked Caritas Polska for this initiative.
“I greet the Polish pilgrims and express heartfelt appreciation for the initiative of Caritas Poland in support of many families in Syria,” Pope Francis said.