The “Open Republic” Association Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia was founded in 1999 by people worried by the manifestations of xenophobic tendencies in Polish public life and the revival of anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes and prejudices. Particularly worrying was infiltration of such content into press publications, literatures and even school text-books. “We believe” - the founders of the Association stated in “Our program goals” – “that one can not remain idle and wait until prejudices grow and become truly dangerous and hard to contain. We established our Association in order to seek in advance ways of building an effective dam against disturbing symptoms of evil... We believe that our attempts shall find favorable support of moral authorities of our country, churches and public opinion”.
“Open Republic” Association members and sympathizers form a group of people who differ in their political views and are of different religions, or non-religious. The Association has over 300 members. It is Warsaw based, however it has a local chapter in Cracow. Detailed information about Association and it’s past programs and activities can be found at the Association’s website: http://or.icm.edu.pl/
Basic goals of the Association, as stated in its Statute, include promotion of openness and respect towards people and groups of a different ethnic, national, religious, cultural or social identity and counteracting all forms of anti-Semitism, xenophobia or any other attitudes hurtful to human dignity.
“Open Republic” Association concentrates its activities on a few fields:
initiating and supporting educational activities counteracting formation of the ethnic and cultural stereotypes, educating towards respect for ethnic, religious and cultural differences and promoting knowledge about multiethnic roots of Polish culture
monitoring instances of anti-Semitism and other ethnic, religious and racial prejudices and bringing them to the attention of public organizations, authorities, media, churches and other social, scientific and cultural organizations
intervening, up to the stage of instigating legal action, in case of proliferation of anti-Semitic or xenophobic views in press publications, books or radio and television
undertaking initiatives aimed at influencing favorable changes in legislative acts and legal regulations relating to the acts of ethnic, national and religious hate
proliferating its goals and ideals by organizing open meetings, lectures and discussions, presenting them in press articles, book publications and on the Association’s website
supporting different civil initiatives which aims are parallel to statutory goals of the Association and collaborating with other institutions and organizations representing similar program values
Conducted in 2001-2002: monitoring of anti-Semitic and xenophobic content (hate speech) in the Polish press. Funded by a grant received from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The resulting report has been published at the Association’s website. The book containing final results and analysis, entitled “Zamiast procesu” (“Instead of the lawsuit”; authors: Sergiusz Kowalski and Magdalena Tulli) was published by W.A.B. publishing house (with financial support of the Stefan Batory Foundation and the Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Science).
Program initiated Fall of 2001: A review of junior-high school text-books (senior-high school is the next step) ofPolish literature, history and social sciences. Books are analyzed with the goal of the ideals of an open society, i.e.: consideration for the rights of the minorities and respect for ethnic, religious and cultural differences.
Aims of the program include:
informing teachers about the content of text-books
preventing the spread of biased educational models
making teachers aware of the problems associated with education in the spirit of tolerance
During the first stage of the program our experts reviewed almost 80 (out of 150 available) text-books. Detailed evaluation criteria and results (reviews) have been published at the Society’s website. The Program has been funded thus far by the Stefan Batory Foundation and the Polish Foundation for Children and Youth.
The pilot stage of this psycho-educational program has been conducted in 2000-2001. Ten 2-hour workshops in the schools of the Warsaw district of Praga and the Upper Silesian town of Będzin were used to measure the degree of change in students’ attitudes towards ethnic and religious intolerance. The Board of our Association has aproved the program for continuation. However, despite the highly favorable evaluation by the Polish Ministry of Education, the program did not receive further public funding.
Open Republic often intervenes in cases of publications and proliferation of anti-Semitic and xenophobic views in Poland. We are active, both in Poland and abroad, in situations that have the possibility of evoking national and religious antagonisms. We have been actives in apeals against the spread of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim stereotypes after September 11-th and have published letters to the German press and government regarding the establishment of the Center Against Expulsions .
In December 2002 “Open Republic” became an official patron of Jan Józef Lipski’s Competition for the best Master Thesis in the field of humanities and social sciences. Zbigniew Bujak established the annual competition in 1995. Since 2002, “Open Republic” is awarding an additional prize for the Master Thesis that reflects ideas and goals close to the statutory aims of our Association.