Christmas campaign presenting Poles different perspective on refugees. A group of six Non-Government Organisations that deal with the issue of refugees joined forces to remind Poles what their tradition stands for and to encourage looking at the refugee crisis from a different perspective.
Facing the biggest migration crisis in modern history, European Union stands on the edge of falling into fear that might ignite xenophobia and racism. Traditional and conservative Polish society is no different. Although the previous government of Poland agreed to allocate only 6,5 thousand refugees, there are still many Poles who say it’s 6,5 thousand too many, especially after national-conservative party won 2015 election. Therefore we believe it is extremely important to remind the Poles true meaning of compassion and solidarity – the basic roots of their deepest beliefs .
Institute of Public Affairs, Refugee.pl Foundation, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Polish Migration Forum Foundation, Association for Legal Intervention and Agora Foundation prepared a powerful campaign, which illustrates the words of pope Francis, who said: “We believe that Jesus was a refugee, had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary, had to leave for Egypt. He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady who knows the pain of refugees.”
The core of the campaign is a film in which we see a laborious journey of two wanderers against inhospitable, harsh, wild nature. They are uncommon and exotically dressed; it is difficult to decode the place and time.
As the night falls they go out into the open field. Suddenly strong beams of light blinded them as a group of armed men in uniforms approached. Soldiers are shouting, angry dogs are barking.
This scene heightens the tension felt from the first seconds of video. When situation reaches its climax, everything turns silent. All we hear is a muted crying infant. In the frame we see a familiar picture known from Nativity scenes: a defenceless family with a newborn baby and a donkey, which reminds of Joseph, Mary and a baby Jesus.
The English voice over says: Jesus was a refugee. Think about it this Christmas. (in original version it says: They too were refugees. Think about while preparing an extra plate for a stray wanderer.)
In Poland Christmas Eve is the most important day of the year. Poles watch Nativity performances, reminiscent of a family who had sought refuge and had nowhere to go. Families prepare an extra plate for a stray wanderer at Christmas dinner table. This tradition dates back to medieval times and it is cultivated in every Polish home. Are these just empty gestures or is there still a touch of empathy in our society? At this particular time of the year, the movie easily recalls something obvious which seems to flee people’s attention. The Holy Family, which has a special place in Polish culture, was a family of refugees.
Anna Kołtunowicz from Agora Foundation says: “It is important that at least once a year, even for a moment, we turn our fear into a gesture. You can help in different ways: a donation, a purchase for the purpose of aid, but also one warm thought for those in need. Even in such a symbolic way you can invite a refugee to your table.”
“The Institute of Public Affairs joined the campaign to speak in this important public debate on Polish attitudes towards refugees. It is also an attempt to persuade Poles, especially in this special time, to reflect on the situation of thousands of people forced to flee their homes because of war, persecution and discrimination. We also challenge Polish hospitality, openness and tolerance. “- Says Rafal Baczyński – Sielaczek, analyst of the Institute of Public Affairs, Migration Policy Programme.
The strength of this campaign is its simplicity. It does not say what the viewer has to think and what to agree. It only encourages looking at the refugee crisis from a different perspective. History repeats itself and we never know what may happen in the future.