[Rushtalk] Poles pray for peace at border; some see anti-Muslim agenda

Carl Spitzer cwsiv at juno.com
Mon Oct 23 11:49:38 MDT 2017

Poles pray for peace at border; some see anti-Muslim agenda

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A devotee takes part in a rosary prayer on the Baltic beach in Gdansk,
Poland, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. Polish Catholics are holding rosaries
and praying together at hundreds of locations along Poland’s
3,500-kilometer (2,000-mile) border, appealing to the Virgin Mary and
God for peace in Poland and in the world. (Alik Keplicz/Associated
By Vanessa Gera and Karel Janicek | AP By Vanessa Gera and Karel
Janicek | AP 
October 7 at 1:55 PM 
GDANSK, Poland — Polish Catholics held rosaries and prayed together
Saturday along the country’s 3,500-kilometer (2,000-mile) border,
appealing to the Virgin Mary and God for salvation for Poland and the
world in a national event that many felt had anti-Islam overtones.

The unusual “Rosary on the Borders” event was organized by lay Catholics
but was also endorsed by Polish church authorities, with 320 churches
from 22 dioceses taking part. The prayers took place from the Baltic Sea
coast in the north to the mountains along Poland’s southern borders with
the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and all along the border of this
country of 38 million where more than 90 percent declare themselves
Roman Catholics.

Organizers say the prayers at some 4,000 locations commemorated the
centenary of the apparitions of Fatima, when three shepherd children in
Portugal said the Virgin Mary appeared to them.

But the event also commemorated the huge 16th-century naval battle of
Lepanto, when a Christian alliance acting on the wishes of the pope
defeated Ottoman Empire forces on the Ionian Sea, “thus saving Europe
from Islamization,” as organizers put it.

While organizers insisted the prayers Saturday were not directed against
any group, some participants cited fears of Islam among their reasons
for praying at the border.

Halina Kotarska, 65, traveled 230 kilometers (145 miles) from her home
in Kwieciszewo, central Poland, to express gratitude after her
29-year-old son Slawomir survived a serious car wreck this year. She
described it as a miracle performed by St. Mary.

She said she was also praying for the survival of Christianity in Poland
and Europe against what she sees as an Islamic threat facing the West.

“Islam wants to destroy Europe,” she said. “They want to turn us away
from Christianity.”

Poles also prayed in chapels at airports, seen as gateways to the
country, while Polish soldiers stationed in Afghanistan prayed at Bagram
Airfield there, the broadcaster TVN reported.

A leading Polish expert on xenophobia and extremism, Rafal Pankowski,
saw the prayers Saturday as a problematic expression of Islamophobia
coming at a time of rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Poland, a phenomenon
occurring even though the country’s Muslim population is tiny.

“The whole concept of doing it on the borders reinforces the
ethno-religious, xenophobic model of national identity,” said Pankowski,
who heads the Never Again association in Warsaw.

His concern was underlined by support the event has received from
far-right leaders and Radio Maryja, a nationalistic Catholic radio
station that is often critical of Islam.

At the Polish-Czech border near the town of Szklarska Poreba, hundreds
of pilgrims arrived in buses and cars to pray at the Karkonosze mountain
range. The procession, which included young and old and families pushing
children in strollers, was made up of pilgrims who held rosaries and
prayed to the Virgin Mary, braving the cold and rain.

“It’s a really serious thing for us,” said Basia Sibinska, who traveled
with her daughter Kasia from Kalisz in central Poland. “Rosaries to the
border means that we want to pray for our country. That was a main
motive for us to come here. We want to pray for peace, we want to pray
for our safety. Of course, everyone comes here with a different
motivation. But the most important thing is to create something like a
circle of a prayer alongside the entire border, intense and passionate.”

In the northern city of Gdansk, people prayed on a beach lapped by waves
as seagulls flew above. Krzysztof Januszewski, 45, said that he worries
Christian Europe is being threatened by Islamic extremists and by a loss
of faith in Christian societies.

“In the past, there were raids by sultans and Turks and people of other
faiths against us Christians,” said Januszewski, a mechanic who traveled
350 kilometers (220 miles) to Gdansk from Czerwinsk nad Wisla.

“Today Islam is flooding us and we are afraid of this too,” he added.
“We are afraid of terrorist threats and we are afraid of people
departing from the faith.”



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