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3/9/2012 - Poland – PE: A look at how things are from the point of view of the contrasts that have arisen in recent decades.

Fr Tomasz Kijowski, Youth Ministry Delegate for Krakow Province, outlines the situation in Poland, noting some of the contrasts that have helped shape Polish geography and which deeply influence its history, culture, challenges and spirituality.

Work: Seeking work - unemployment
From the results of an inquiry commissioned by the Polish Government, published in the “Youth 2011” Report, it seems that the change most desired by Polish youth regards the labour market. Unemployment is, in fact, the most urgent problem. So-called junk contracts add to the precariousness of the situation. These are really a form of exploitation of young people and result in strong emigration to Ireland, England and other Western European countries.

Emigration has a further two consequences. The first is due to the fact that parents who have been forced to emigrate, often leave their children in Poland. Many children grow up with a single parent. These children are called 'Euro-orphans”. This then leads to a range of educational problems especially during teenage years.

A second consequence of emigration is the weakening of the social fabric; many young girls go looking for a better future elsewhere.

Faith: Tradition - maturity
“Traditional faith” – understood as a common religious heritage handed on from generation to generation, taken for granted but not so consciously lived – has by now almost disappeared. The evolution of new technologies has contributed to this; their influence has also given a new face to the countryside as well.

One the one hand there is an increasing indifference to faith, often motivated by the Church's infidelity, and on the other hand there is also a much more mature and committed faith emerging, owing much to catechetics at school which, although with its limitations, has had a strong impact on development of more aware attitudes to faith.

And media have given a great contribution for their part and played an important role. The Catholic weekly “Gość Niedzielny” or 'Sunday Visitor' is amongst the highest for weekly sales in Poland; then we can add the media group that has grown up around Radio Maria, the TV network Trwam and the daily “Nasz Dziennik”. The dialogue with consumer culture as fostered by other Polish media is alive and, at times, not without its tensions and therefore fundamentally important for giving reason for Christian hope.

New religious movements are an important dimension. They are widespread in Poland: Focolarini, Communion and Liberation, Chemin, Neuf, Neocatchumenate and others, and some which have grown up in Poland itself: Ruch Światło – Żyice (Light and Life Movement), Ruch Apostolstwa Młodych (Youth Apostolate), Wspólnota Mamre (Mamre Community), …

The Church: Communism - civil society
The new generations, even though they have not had direct experience of communist Poland, have grown up with certain attitudes from their parents, attitudes which are a heavy legacy of the regime. There is a lack of respect for the common good for example, and a certain indifference towards some social problems; often there are expectations of social or state bodies and as a result a degree of nepotism and corruption.

The Church, which after the war succeeded in building many churches, has fostered attitudes of active citizenship; it is the faith communities which have promoted social commitment. Many recently founded volunteer and non-government organisations came about in a Church setting.

However, it must be noted that the Church has lost the unifying force in society it enjoyed in the past and struggles to present itself as a moral and spiritual authority for contemporary Polish society.

The family: values - challenges
Research shows that for many years the most important value for Polish youth has been family. This encourages young people to look for the right person with whom to construct a happy family. But despite this there are increasing harmful tendencies evident such as prostitution (so-called 'sponsoring'), or people choosing to live a single lifestyle, or civil unions or just living together – all far from the dream of a family based on love for spouse and children.

Published 03/09/2012

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