Pope Francis: Refugees are our Brothers and Sisters

For today and tomorrow the pope invited city mayors to Vatican for the summit "Europe: Refugees Are Our Brothers and Sisters". I am honored that Gdansk's efforts on running the Immigrants Integration Model have been noticed by Francis and I will be able to deliver a speech on our actions.

2016-12-09-1481274657-5831616-IMG_3246.JPG During the first day of the summit.

Pope Francis has been calling for solidarity with refugees many times. When visiting Poland in July, the pontiff stressed the need of "readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one's faith in freedom and safety". We should carefully listen to these words and start looking for the best solutions for our planet. Solidarity is part of our essence, and a fundamental brick of the European dream. Forgetting that value, means condemning our future.

The summit in Vatican has been called to shed light and to offer solutions to the threat posed to global stability by the growing presence of over 125 million refugees. The focal point of the summit is mayors' role in coping with this challenge. During the summit the mayors will be having an opportunity to share our commitment with the Pope, who believes that mayors should raise their voices to promote bridges, not walls.

The Pope support for mayors is especially important for us, in Poland, where the central government does not want to be a part of European solidarity on solving the humanitarian crisis. Instead they prefer to ignite anti-refugee fears, which is contrary to Christian values.

Representing my city of Gdansk and the EU's Committee of Regions, I will tell the Pope and summit participants about our actions on integrating immigrants, mostly from former Soviet countries, who have been arriving to Gdansk. There are many actions we may be proud of - we have established new services for immigrants, such as: Polish language courses, City Team against Discrimination, volunteer services for immigrants, special service point for immigrants at the City Hall. We have been the first city in Poland, and one of the firsts in CEE region, to have such a program.

2016-12-09-1481274718-9384189-IMG_3245.JPG During the first day of the summit.

We are ready to share our experience and good practices with other cities. Gdansk is the city of Solidarity and Freedom, where Lech Walesa started a peaceful revolution in the 80s. I believe that today, in very turbulent times, Gdansk may be a part of another peaceful revolution - helping those who suffer, who lost their homes and seek for safety for their families.

2016-12-09-1481274266-281344-integracja_imigrantow10integracja_imigrantow10integracja_imigrantow10_p.jpg Our team working on the the Immigrant integration model. Photo: gdansk.pl