Statement of Principles

We do not share this view. We perceive, rather, that in Poland, just as in many other European countries, the 'margins' reveal a dangerous dynamic. In Poland, organizations and groups that spread anti-Semitism and virulent forms of nationalism are becoming more visible and confident, and clearly expect to use the upcoming electoral campaigns to bolster their activities.
Meanwhile we are beginning to become accustomed to this arrogant invasion. The average citizen refrains from comment on anti-Semitic books and periodicals, even when these are distributed through government-owned newsstands. Nationalistic interpretations of Polish history found in some school textbooks are rarely met with protest. The racial, ethnic and religious slurs of people who claim to be speaking in the name of Christian morality, if not of actual ministers of this faith, are frequently passed over in silence. Public acts of discrimination or even open aggression against Asians, Africans, refugees and Roma rarely disturb the indifference of witnesses.
We should not be comforted by the fact that there exist other communities even less tolerant than our own. We recognize that similar phenomena have recently become more visible throughout Europe, and this is all the more reason to take action now, before such prejudices take on truly menacing form. We have founded our association in order to help hold in check these disturbing expressions of evil and to insure that in the future Polish intellectuals will not have to blame themselves for having been deaf, blind and indifferent. We must begin modestly, given our limited organizational and financial resources.


We must acquire and disseminate accurate information about the extent and nature of the phenomena we wish to combat. As a first step, we plan to record and document expressions of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia that appear in the press, books, schools, political forums or other areas of public life, as well as any verbal or physical acts of aggression against those who differ in appearance, language, or faith. We shall also record, and with equal care, positive actions worthy of being more widely known.
We shall persistently bring incidents of intolerance and hatred to the attention of educators, the Church, the media, cultural associations, politicians and, if necessary, to government officials. For the moment, there is disagreement among us about the utility of legal actions, under existing laws, against authors and publishers of materials which incite ethnic, racial or religious hatred, or which deny the Holocaust. In extreme cases, we will undoubtedly demand responsibility before the law. Our primary mission, however, is to sensitise people, communities and organizations which, through their indifference, encourage and legitimate hate group activities.


One object of our concern will be the spreading of knowledge about the historical, sociological and psychological origins of racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice. We will support publications which promote the discussion of these issues, focusing primarily on the development of better school curriculums and textbooks. We hope to work with the Ministry of National Education in developing programs at the secondary level (i.e. for gimnazjum and liceum) that will impart to our youth a better understanding of the multi-ethnic origins of Polish culture as well as interest in and respect for the traditions and achievements both of Poland's minorities and of neighbouring nations. Since we believe that Polish culture and history cannot be fully appreciated without understanding the contributions of other ethnic and religious elements, we sincerely hope that the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage will act accordingly.
Our efforts will be informed by an understanding of European integration as an opportunity for the further development of national and regional cultures, not as a threat to them. We believe that it is crucial to encourage teachers and local governments to develop their own ideas and initiatives along these lines. We also hope that organizations of Polish national minorities will recognize the importance of such policy: their cooperation and solidarity will be crucial for the achievement of our goals. While we are aware that dramatic results are unlikely to be achieved immediately, we believe these efforts essential to improving Poland's overall cultural climate.
We will use a wide variety of media, particularly the internet. We also hope that our discussions and seminars will bear fruit in the form of studies and essays that will be available both for participants and for all interested parties.


The task of improving the culture of tolerance in Poland requires cooperation between many organizations. The 'Open Republic' works together with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the 'Never Again' ('Nigdy Wiêcej') Association, and the Foundation for Polish Humanitarian Action. We welcome cooperation with all associations, foundations, editorial boards, schools and academic institutions that share our concerns.
Furthermore, we believe that similar organizations in different countries should join hands and share their experiences, because the poison of intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism is not limited to any particular country. The Polish Government's reports on implementing and observing the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations' Convention on Racial Discrimination should be supported with reliable information. We are ready to cooperate with the Council of Europe's Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, as well as with other similar European and national bodies.


Members of our Association include scientists, writers, journalists, lawyers, teachers, social workers, clergy, and people from a wide array of other occupations. They are of all ages and represent very different political orientations, but united in the belief that it is necessary to take action against xenophobia and anti-Semitism and to promote cultural tolerance, respect for human rights, and the appreciation of our multi-ethnic origins. The Association is open to all those who share this view. Its ability to act and grow will depend on our members' willingness to devote albeit a fraction of their time, interest and energy to the Association's efforts. The Board and Programming Council will support the creation of local branches capable of initiating efforts which are consistent with the concept and statutes of the 'Open Republic' Association. Whether and when the Association will operate efficiently as a fully-fledged organization will depend on the contributions of all of its members.
As realists, we do not expect hate to disappear from our public lives over night. The historical roots of ethnic and religious animosities are too deep and the political uses of hate too attractive to ever expect a permanent disappearance of mutual distrust. But it should be known that a certain type of abusive language is intolerable in decent society, and that those who employ ethnic slurs in schools, journals, or conversation do so at the risk of exclusion. We also wish to see a time when certain publications are not carried by decent bookstores. And we wish to come closer to the day when offensive graffiti will disappear and every man, woman and child - of whatever origins or citizenship - will feel safe and protected by Polish law at home and on the street of a Polish city, at school, on a bus or in a disco. We believe that distinguished leaders of our government, our churches and of public opinion will support our efforts and those initiated by all people of good faith.

The Board and Programming Council of 'Otwarta Rzeczpospolita'
February 2000.

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