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The Catholic Church in Belarus called Wednesday for prayers for migrants and refugees amid a growing humanitarian crisis at the country’s border with Poland.
The appeal was published Nov. 10 on the Church’s website, Catholic.by.
“At a time when a real humanitarian crisis is unfolding on the borders of our country, let us cover with prayer the people who belong to the most vulnerable group: migrants and refugees,” the website said.
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 the 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 neighbouring Belarus.
Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on Nov. 10 that “there were many attempts to breach the Polish border” overnight.
The German chancellor Angela Merkel has appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko’s ally, to intervene to end the crisis.
The website of the Catholic Church in Belarus also posted a report on comments by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Nov. 9.
Speaking at a live-streamed press conference alongside Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Gallagher said that the Vatican was taking a “pretty even-handed” approach to the border crisis.
“On the immediate crisis that is taking place, on the borders between Belarus, Lithuania, Belarus and Poland, the Holy See’s position is, I think, pretty even-handed with regard to the encouragement that we offer to authorities throughout the whole of Europe to assume their responsibilities with regard to migrants and to refugees,” he said.
“And therefore, we would encourage all to assume their responsibilities and to address what is obviously a very serious humanitarian crisis.”
He noted that the Church in Poland had been “critical of the approach by the authorities and has been trying to encourage a more humanitarian and a more flexible approach.”
“I think that the bishops of Poland, for example, have somewhat dissented from the pushback by the authorities. And I think that there there is the voice of the Church, encouraging all to regard this situation as not a question of numbers, but of people, just like the rest of us, who find themselves in a very serious position. And those obviously who are responsible for this issue obviously bear a great burden of responsibility.”
Lavrov said that the crisis should be resolved with “full respect for the principles of international humanitarian law.”
“It is important not to forget the roots of these problems. They are caused by the long-term policy of the Western countries, including NATO and EU members, as regards the Middle East and North Africa,” he commented.
“The West was trying to impose its version of a better life on these states, and its interpretation of democracy that it was pushing all over the world. When the West encountered the least bit of resistance, it launched military ventures. Iraq was bombed under a false pretext, the Libyan state was destroyed and there were attacks on Syria. These and other ventures of our Western colleagues triggered unprecedented refugee flows.”
The Catholic Church in Poland will hold a collection this month for migrants facing deteriorating conditions on the country’s border with Belarus.
The website of the Church in Belarus is encouraging Catholics to recite the following prayer:
Merciful God, let refugees and migrants,
deprived of home, family, and everything they know,
feel Your presence filled with love.
Warm the hearts of children and the elderly,
as well as of the weakest people.
Make them feel that You are near,
as You did with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
when they were refugees in Egypt.
Help them find a new home and new hope.
Open our hearts so that we accept them
as sisters and brothers,
seeing in their faces Thy Son, Jesus.