February 22, 2021 — Warsaw — Twelve prominent Polish community leaders launched today the Community of Conscience – A Coalition of Mutual Respect, an interfaith group that aims to fight discrimination against religious, ethnic, and cultural minorities.
“In times of crisis for authority figures, a strong voice of opposition to humans hating other humans is needed, the voice of people of conscience speaking together in the name of mutual respect despite the differences between them,” the group stated.
Community of Conscience – A Coalition of Mutual Respect members include:
Imam Rafał Berger and Prof. Agata Skowron-Nalborczyk, Co-Chairs of the Common Council of Catholics and Muslims; Prof. Stanisław Krajewski and Zbigniew Nosowski, Co-Chairs of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews; Dr. Ewa Jóźwiak, President of the Synod of the Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland; Jerzy Samiec, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland; Tomasz Miśkiewicz, Muslim Mufti in the Republic of Poland; Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of the Republic of Poland; and Rabbi Małgorzata Kordowicz of the Jewish Community of Warsaw. Civil society and academia are represented by Dr. Sebastian Rejak, AJC Central Europe Acting Director; Rev. Professor Henryk Paprocki, Orthodox Christian Theology Faculty of the University of Białystok; and Rev. Professor Andrzej Szostek, President of the Catholic University of Lublin (1998-2004).
The Community of Conscience was created in recognition of the need for unity out of concern for fundamental human and civil rights. “Our cooperation is based on mutual respect for the identity of the religious, ethnic and cultural communities to which we belong, and on respect for the dignity of every human being, regardless of their ancestry, religion or beliefs,” the group’s mission statement affirms. It also emphasizes the importance of conscience in democracy: “People of conscience, able to choose good and distinguish it from evil, are the most important social capital.”
AJC Central Europe Acting Director Sebastian Rejak initiated the process a year ago to establish the group. “If there is a way to convincingly speak to those who despise others and blame them for all of the world’s misfortunes, it’s a message of unity, when differences come together,” Rejak said in early 2020. “The truth and righteousness are like a symphony: many voices, many experiences together form a new whole – a harmony that we hope will transform people’s minds and hearts.”
“I joined the Community of Conscience in the hope that together with those who have co-established the group we will be credible witnesses of God in our environment,” said Dr. Ewa Jóźwiak, President of the Synod of the Evangelical Reformed Church in Poland. “A single voice may not be heard well, while speaking together is a significant force that cannot be ignored.”
During the launch event Community of Conscience speakers referred to the mass murders that occurred over the past several decades in Cambodia, East Timor, Yugoslavia, Darfur, and, more recently, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people, death of hundreds of thousands in Syria, the mass executions of Yazidis in Iraq, victims of war in Yemen, and crimes against humanity on the Uyghur minority in China. Remembering these human catastrophes, the Community of Conscience underscored that mass atrocities originate in hatred and pledged to stand up against contempt, aggression, and physical violence against individuals and groups based on their identity.
In conclusion the Community of Conscience – A Coalition of Mutual Respect published a statement signed by all members addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. The members agreed that following the recommendations of physicians and institutions established to combat biological threats is a moral imperative. They also shared their deepest conviction that vaccination is the most rational act of responsibility vis-à-vis oneself and one’s neighbor.
Watch the video of the launch event here.