Lukashenko, who has led Belarus since 1994, launched a crackdown on protesters in the wake of the election. Those imprisoned included members of the country’s ethnic Polish minority.
At the start of August, Poland gave a humanitarian visa to the Belarusian athlete Krystina Timanovskaya, who defied an order to fly home early from the Olympics in Tokyo.
The border crisis has also affected Latvia and Lithuania, which, like Poland, are EU member states neighboring Belarus.
The bishops’ council called on Polish Catholics to uphold the Christian tradition of welcoming the stranger in need.
“Indifference is not an authentically Christian attitude. Let us ignite in ourselves the imagination of mercy which will allow us to join in helping those who need it, thus undertaking the mission of the Good Samaritan,” it said.
“We ask people of goodwill -- regardless of their religion -- to show solidarity with those who come to us as war refugees, persecuted, or destitute.”
It also urged politicians and the media to exercise responsibility.
“We ask representatives of all political forces to work together to find solutions to the complex migration problems, guided above all by attitudes of hospitality, respect for newcomers, and the common good of Poles,” the statement said.
“Understandable concern for their own citizens cannot be a sufficient reason for closing the borders to those seeking refuge.”
It continued: “The media should build a culture of encounter rather than spreading prejudice and creating an atmosphere of insecurity, so we ask journalists and reporters to cover the situation of refugees and immigrants fairly.”
“Fostering resentment and hostility towards newcomers in dire situations is wrong. Anti-refugee or anti-immigrant narratives affect the lives of individuals. They are also ruinous to attempts at responsible community reflection on possible responses to complex migration issues.”
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“No media coverage of even the most difficult cases should lead to contempt for the migrant. They are our brothers and sisters in humanity and deserve help to find a place where they can live with dignity and contribute to civil society.”
“The doubts and fears that arise, on the other hand, must be resolved through genuine information, dialogue, and authentic witness. Human drama must not become an instrument for stirring up xenophobic sentiments, especially in the name of a falsely understood patriotism, which humiliates people coming from another region of the world, another culture, or another religion. Instilling fear of the other is inhuman and unchristian.”
The bishops’ council noted that for centuries Poles were forced to leave their homeland because of war and occupation.
“They experienced the help of people from other cultures and religions,” it said. “To deny newcomers their fundamental rights is to turn our back on our own history and to deny our Christian heritage.”
Polish bishops reiterated their appeal in a statement following a meeting of the Council of Diocesan Bishops in Jasna Góra, southern Poland, on Aug. 25.
They said: “In view of the events on Poland’s eastern border, and especially those in Afghanistan, the diocesan bishops recall that the situation of migrants and refugees should always raise understanding, compassion, and help.”