“Despite differences in faith and ethnicity, we create a national community of people on Polish soil,” emphasized Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland during a meeting with representatives of all major churches, religious associations and ethnic and national minorities present in Poland.
Four leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland were among the invitees who met at the Presidential Place on Friday, January 18, 2019.
According to Andrzej Siciński, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Polish Adventist Church, this demonstrates recognition at the highest state level for religious pluralism within the country. “From the perspective of a religious minority this is extremely valuable,” he stated. While the Adventist representatives did not have the opportunity to speak in the public forum, the event did give them a chance to share Adventist values during the more informal discussions surrounding the meeting.
This annual event has given Siciński the opportunity to meet with four presidents over the years, and to note the way perceptions have changed.
Those perceptions are valuable for President Duda. “I am very happy because our meeting is an important element within the existence of the Polish community,” he stated, noting that it was a “beautiful show” of how the citizens of the Republic, those who live on Polish soil, and those who live in a tradition shaped here for centuries, can live harmoniously together.
“The New Year's meeting of the President of the Republic of Poland with representatives of various churches is an important event in our country,” states Ryszard Jankowski, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland. “It has a special character. The President expresses his thanks to the churches for their activities and stresses the importance of tolerance and proper relationships.”
Jankowski also appreciated the emphasis that in Poland, according to President Duda, there is full openness to Christian values.
According to Index Mundi, 87.2 percent of the population regard themselves as Catholic, while only 0.4 percent are Protestant, mainly Evangelical or Pentecostal. The 5,796 Adventists fall within that 0.4 percent.* Despite being such a small group with the 38.5 million population of the country, Adventists are recognized for the positive impact they make on society.
“Being invited to the meeting,” according to Jankowski, “indicates that as a religious community we are noticed and appreciated. Our contribution to health, social and charity programs is noticed.”
However, the meeting is more than just a nice get-together. “As a church called to preach a special message, we have a lot to offer,” Jankowski adds. “We should share more with the message of Jesus, in which there is a message of love, forgiveness and building good interpersonal relations. We Adventists should serve as an example and be above any political and social divisions. However, we should never forget that building unity should not be at the expense of fidelity to God's principles.”
Part of this year’s witness was the opportunity to share a copy of the book Desire of Ages with the President and his wife during a short conversation. The Adventist delegation also presented them with a CD compilation of 100 Adventist programs, a reference to the recent 100th anniversary celebrations of Polish independence.
There are those who are critical of church leaders meeting with politicians. Marek Chełmiński, who serves in the Polish Union’s Western Conference responds, positively to such criticism. “We Adventists have two homelands - the most important and eternal – heavenly one, as well as the temporary, present community of people in which we live. Not attending such meetings leads to a kind of self-alienation and misses opportunities for positive dialogue.” He notes that the Bible shares many instances of such dialogue.
Jankowski is aware of the differences but appreciates the opportunities. “We must be fully aware that we are a religious community that underlines the importance of the decalogue in the lives of believers,” he states. “It is not enough to know God's commandments, but to observe them every day. They are an expression of God's love and care for the wellbeing of every human being. As the Church, we still have a lot to do so that the extraordinary beauty of the love, goodness and mercy of Jesus will be strongly portrayed in our country.”
*Membership statistics as of December 2017