Children in the middle of the EP campaign

  • Law and Justice runs a campaign against the LGBT+ community accusing the opposition of an ideological war and “sexualisation of children”;
  • Teachers’ unions go on strike: derailment of the spring exams in sight and maybe even graduation;
  • The Youth Climate Strikes hit the Polish streets;
  • The Catholic Church in Poland releases its statistics about paedophilia.

Law and Justice fights the LGBT+

The main theme of the current EP campaign in Poland is not quite what every major political actor wants. The Law and Justice crafted its offer to the public with a major program of give-aways and a campaign of lies against the LGBT+ community. PiS talks of fears of “sexualisation of children”.

Saturday, 16 March Jarosław Kaczyński in Katowice: “Get away from our children” in a response to an interview Warsaw deputy mayor Paweł Rabiej gave to Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (DGP). Rabiej in DGP: “Let’s not change the society by force. First the civil unions, then the marriage equality, then the possibility of adoption”. The PiS politicians took to Twitter to show how they agree with their leader. The conservative pundits took it further to the same areas where a week before the speaker of the Senate Stanisław Karczewski took it:

The liberal Gazeta Wyborcza soon accused the PiS Senator for copying the far-right activist and a former priest Jacek Międlar, who tweeted in 2017 using the same motif about the migrants:

PiS accused Rabiej of honesty. Michał Dworczyk MP and head of the PM Chancellery talks about an “idealogical war” that the Polish opposition is leading on the Polish family.

All looks good, except… the teachers’ strike (see below).

The European Coalition: how to manage diversity?

The European Coalition (KE) has a problem. The coalition’s main idea for a unity is its opposition to the Law and Justice rule. In the European elections context, it is the opposition to the Polexit, which could be incidental. The KE wants to fight the Law and Justice on the pro-EU v anti-EU rhetoric.

Instead, the KE confronts a dilemma of how to defend a diversity. Ever since the KE has been created Law and Justice exposes its weakness: lack of coherence on issues. For the Coalition to be successful at the end of the day it will be important to convince the public that diversity is not a handicap, but an advantage. Meanwhile PiS accuses the conservatives of PSL and PO of being pro-gay…

Teachers on Strike

PiS may have led the debate so far with false accusation of the Coalition that wants to “sexually educate” the children, but the real issue is looming. It seems impossible to square two facts. First, apparently the state budget is in excellent condition, since PiS just offered major new proposals with billions being spend on 13th pension, support for first child within the 500+ programme, lowering the taxes, etc. Second, the teachers are asking for a raise. They are negotiating with the education minister Anna Zalewska (also a PiS candidate for the European Parliament) for months.

Mr Broniarz
announces teachers’ strike,
10 Jan 2019

Teachers are outraged. Why? Apparently the minister offered 120 zł raise per teacher (gross) “this is the optimal amount from the point of view of budget constraints”, according to Sławomir Broniarz, the teacher union ZNP chief. As the negotiations continued, PiS offered 10 billion Euro spending for other programmes… clearly the “budget constraints” are quite flexible, should there be a justified need.

Hence the strike. Currently there is a referendum going on in schools. The general strike is scheduled to begin on 8 April, right ahead of the exams period. In Kraków 15 teachers have been occupying the local Board of Education HQ already for a couple of days.

The teachers strike is expected to be massive. The general public has been confronted with a simple comparison: an educated 26 year old has better salary and financial prospects in a local grocery store than as a teacher. The head of ZNP says on Sunday, 17 March:

A strike is not all. We have a powerful weapon in our hands: the graduation of students. If we do it, the education is faced with a complete cataclysm. We would like the government to be aware.

Stanisław Broniarz

PiS first response is disbelief. Then denial. Krzysztof Szczerski, head of the Chancellery of President Duda and a former PiS MP: “Teachers don’t have to live in celibacy. The transfers, like 500+, are for teachers, too. PiS gives money to all Poles, teachers included”. Another PiS leader, Marek Suski, head of the Prime Minister Chancellery, proves to be out of touch by comparing salaries of teachers with that of MPs. According to Mr Suski basic salary of a teacher in Poland today is some 5000 zł and an MP’s basic salary is some 8000 zł. “That’s not a big difference”. 37,5% to be precise, should the minister be correct. He is not. The basic salary of a teacher is 3500 zł. Is the difference of 56% small? Mr Suski apologises.

The teachers outrage continues.

The Youth Climate Strike

Teachers on strike, so is the youth. On 15 March in over 30 cities in Poland the youth marches in protest against the climate change.

The protests are global. Once initiated in Sweden, the issue of motivating the young, whose future is stolen by the irresponsible adults, takes Europe by storm. The initiative also arrived in Poland. The local context is apolitical. The youth does not want to be seen political, hence instead of a policy the main focus is awareness raising among the general public. “I am here on strike against the destruction of nature” says an 8-year-old protester in Wrocław.

The Church lurks into its dark side

The Catholic Church has a global problem with paedophilia. Hence the recent meeting in Rome. Meanwhile in Poland the situation is as dramatic. It could be that the Catholic Church in Poland, where over 90% of people identify themselves as Roman Catholics, is exemplary of the problem.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the debate. Since then the monument of the alleged child predator in Gdańsk is removed and the name of the square patron’s is changed. That’s the good news.

The new official report of the Catholic Church shows the figures of registered cases of paedophilia. Apparently there are 382 cases since 1990, and the trend is not on the decrease. There are about 625 victims in the process:

The number of registered cases of paedophilia annually, source: Episcopal Conference of Poland

The Polish experts as well as the Vatican expert as quoted by Wirtualna Polska (WP), denounce the report prepared by the Church. Apparently the archbishop Jędraszewski, who is supposed to lead the work on the issue, is not impartial. The unnamed Italian voice: “This is scandalous. Abp Jędraszewski used to defend abp Paetz accused of molesting young priests. It is simply awful”. He also refers to more recent situation during the last conference convened by Pope Francis: “Archbishop Jędraszewski has just arrived replacing archbishop Stanisław Gądecki. Even before the official ending of the conference he went on a pilgrimage to Fatima! He just left, instead of sitting here to the end together with Pope Francis in a penitential service. So what are we talking about here?”.

Marek Lisiński of the Foundation “Do Not Be Afraid” recently presented a report to Pope Francis showing how 24 Polish bishops, archbishops and cardinals abuse power to cover up for acts of paedophilia. He also talks to WP. In that interview he says there is no way the issue can be dealt with properly within the Church alone. The issue should be addressed by an independent commission with the state authorities involved. The Australian model has been proposed as for how to deal with the situation. The case of sentencing of Australia’s Cardinal Pell comes to mind. Mr Lisiński argues that as long as PiS is in power there is no way such a committee could be convened.

Et alors?

Gay or straight, conservative or liberal, federalist or sovereignist, rich or poor, at the end of the day only one fight matters: the fight for the survival of mankind. The youth takes to the streets of Europe and begins to be heard more than the French Yellow Vests. In Poland children are still children, largely voiceless.

Nobody asks the children about the teachers strike. If families are asked, it’s the parents’ worries that matter. Nobody asks the children about the LGBT rights or if they feel sexualised by the Warsaw Declaration or if there is too many history lessons and not enough classes on Europe. The focus on the paedophilia is about the victims who are now adults and ready (or not) to confront the past. The focus on the current and future victims eludes us all.

The elections to the European Parliament are about the future. Children are the future. Shouldn’t we engage the European youth more often about what kind of world matters to them? At least when they have something to say about the climate and the air quality. Instead the Polish saying “children and fish are voiceless” is as popular as ever.

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