Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to hear about issues of peace and justice
July 29, 2023
An activist who provides humanitarian assistance to people in crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border will be an International Peacemaker this year.
Magdalena Łuczak of Poland is one of up to 10 people coming to the United States, from partner denominations and organizations around the world, to serve as International Peacemakers in September and October, according to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. At the invitation of mid councils and other Presbyterian-affiliated organizations, the peacemakers will share stories about themselves and provide insight into issues facing their home countries.
Łuczak is part of Grupa Granica (The Border Group). It’s an informal network of organizations and individuals working together to address challenges migrants have encountered at the Polish-Belarusian border since August 2021.
“We are doing what we can to bring worldwide attention to the issue,” Łuczak said. “We are grateful that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) enables us to do so and is not indifferent to the human injustice that is being done to people on the Polish-Belarusian border.”
According to a piece published last year by Mission Co-Worker Ellen Smith, Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko, responded to sanctions and international pressure following Belarus’ 2020 elections by starting a targeted operation to bring would-be migrants from war-affected countries in the Middle East and Africa to Belarus and push them to the borders of the European Union, namely Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, to try to destabilize and exert political pressure on the EU.
Some of those migrants found themselves being pushed back from Poland to Belarus by border guards and then pushed back to Poland, sometimes repeatedly, and have struggled for survival, Smith wrote.
Łuczak’s group has tried to help the people, whom she refers to as “forced migrants,” and monitors human rights violations.
“Our goal is primarily to de-escalate violence and fight for respect for humanitarian law,” she said. “The situation required us to be active in many fields simultaneously, including organizing humanitarian and medical assistance, as well as the necessary legal, psychological and material support on the border, sometimes even 24 hours a day.”
Łuczak was motivated to start a search system for people who go missing as a result of pushbacks. “Despite the commitment and work of so many people, it is extremely difficult to get information on the whereabouts of a missing person,” she said. “The authorities do not keep a record of pushed-back refugees and quite often they delay replies and make it difficult to find out the truth.”
Activists are growing weary, but Łuczak looks forward to being a peacemaker and updating the PC(USA). “We believe that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will help us raise the awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Poland and give people a new portion of hope and priceless support.”
The war between Ukraine and Russia also has been a major driver of migration to Poland. “In Ukraine, we reached out to people … organizing, among other things, safe transports of people and animals to Poland, or items and medicines in the other direction,” said Łuczak, who’s also with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
Having peacemakers like Łuczak visit the PC(USA) provides a plethora of benefits to their hosts as well as to the church at large, according to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, which coordinates peacemaker visits.
“By sharing stories of their work and witness, the peacemakers help us understand peace and justice concerns around the world and provide insights that can inspire us to greater faithfulness,” the website notes. “Their visits broaden our sense of God’s inclusive family and help equip us to build a culture of peace and nonviolence for all God’s children.”
Darla Carter, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Magdalena Łuczak of Poland to serve as International Peacemaker
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Dear God, we pray for all those in whom your knowledge grows and who bear fruit for your kingdom. Amen.