“Clean blood!”

“Refugees get out!”

These are not slogans one hopes to find carried boldly in public in a massive rally to commemorate a national day of celebration. But, reports indicate that in Poland on 11 November 60,000 people marched in the streets of Warsaw many carrying banners bearing such words.

In addition to the banners, reporters say, the crowds chanted:

“The whole Poland sings with us: f*** off with the refugees”

“Not red, not rainbow but national Poland”

“One nation across the borders”

“F*** Antifa”

But there are three slogans from this rally that should be of particular concern to people who claim to be Christian. From the lips of people carrying obviously racist and xenophobic banners were heard shouts of:

“We Want God!”

“God, honour, homeland”

“Great Catholic Poland, Great national Poland”


It seems there is a link between the racism and nationalism raising its ugly head in Poland and the heritage of Christian faith that is a deep part of Polish culture and history. Andrea Pirro, research fellow at Scuola Normale Superiore explains,

“Religion is, above all, a rhetorical tool that the far right uses to present itself as the defender of traditional values against liberal progressives and other ‘sinners’.”

“Such a narrative is intended to reinforce the contraposition between a Christian ‘us’ (the native population) and a non-Christian ‘them’ (by exclusion, the non-native ‘aliens’).

“Religion can be thus interpreted as a political expedient to be used against migrant populations, ethnic minorities, and ‘liberal agents’ supposedly acting on their behalf.”

Professor Anna Grzymala-Busse of Stanford University the use of religion to inflame nationalist fervour is not isolated to Poland:

“We see similar versions in other countries in central and Eastern Europe [such as] the Serbian government during the wars of Yugoslav Succession [and] Jobbik’s references to the crown of St. Stephen in Hungary,” she said. “All of these are instrumental uses of religion for the sake of political ends, and rarely reflect genuine religious sentiment.”

When any faith is co-opted to support a right-wing fascist agenda of exclusion, prejudice and racism, we are treading into dangerous territory. Religious sensibility is a powerful tool. In the wrong hands, it can be used to devastating effect to manipulate people into behaviour that contradicts the heart of every world religion.

Religion properly practiced majors in openness, welcome, service to the poor, and the fostering of a culture of gentleness and mutual respect. When Jesus said,

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places, (John 14:2)

he meant there is room in God’s love for a vast multitude.

The fulfillment of Jesus’ mission is Revelation 7:9 where John shares his vision of God’s ultimate goal for the human community:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.

There is no place in true faith for “Refugees get out!” or “Clean blood.” These slogans are driven by fear and insecurity. But, ironically, until we fully embrace one another with all our uniqueness, there is no possibility of creating any lasting security among the peoples of this earth.

In a school exercise recently, my ten-year-old granddaughter was asked to describe a time when she “felt different.” She puzzled for a long time over the assignment and finally replied, “I feel unique; but I don’t feel different.” We are all unique; but in the depths of our being, we share a common humanity. Religion at its best serves to call us to look beyond surface differences to that which we share in common and to live in community with all people from an awareness of our shared humanity.